What, not who is COO?

February 20th, 2009

Country of origin information needs to be a significant part of product traceability beyond one forward one back reporting if we are to limit food borne illness outbreaks and other product issues that continue to put consumers and companies at risk.

According to Wikipedia, Country of origin (often abbreviated to COO), is the country of manufacture, production, or growth where a product comes from.

This week during his visit to Canada, President Obama’s administration is seeking tougher labeling laws on fresh meat and other food products. Canada continues to be an opponent to country of origin labeling. Mexico our other NAFTA partner also does not support this type of labeling and has actually filed protests with the World Trade Organization.

It troubles this author when North America has suffered the two largest food borne illness outbreaks in decades in the last year that our local trading partners ignore this critical step in product traceability. I’m sure everyone remembers that last years Salmonella outbreaks source search was focused on tomato’s and peppers imported from Mexico.

What we clearly require is specific country of origin labeling. Standards tend to be inconsistent from country to country. By example products enter North America from Europe that may carry country of origin labeling like “Europe” or “EU” rather than specific labeling indicating a product comes from France or Germany.

Manufactured products create a more unique issue, as individual products may include up to hundreds of components, pieces and parts from dozens of countries and assembled in other countries. While this issue requires significant work, there is absolutely no reason that we can not include country of origin labeling on all food products that enter our country.

Consumers and the retailers they buy their products from demand this of suppliers.

We appreciate and look forward to your comments.

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