New Food Labels Help Track Origins

POSTED: Monday, March 16, 2009 - 3:23pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 2:23pm

There's a change today at your local grocery store. ..

Not only will you know what's in the food you buy, you can also see where it came from.

Scares over tainted spinach, tomatoes, peanut butter and even Mad Cow Disease led to the new labeling rules.

Labels on meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables and some nuts will now show which country that food came from.

The federal government is requiring these new labels at supermarkets and large stores.

Small butcher shops and fish markets don't have to use them.

Processed foods are exempt, which is already leading to confusion over what can be classified as "processed".

Frozen carrots need labels, but not if they're mixed with frozen peas.

Pork chops need labels, but ham and bacon don't.

Bagged lettuce, yes. Mixed salad greens, no.

"The public is really misled if you can have such minimal processing and you don't have to label," said The Center for Food Safety's Jaydee Hanson. "We would like to see everything you eat traceable from the farm to the fork."

The Obama administration says this law, which was put in place by the Bush administration, is just a start.

It's urging meat companies to go above and beyond, labeling even more foods in greater detail than the law requires.

"What we hope you'll see is 'Born in Canada, processed and slaughtered in the United States', or 'USA', which means it was born, raised, slaughtered and processed all in our country," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The Consumers Union has put together what they call a "cool tool" to walk consumers through which foods are required to have the new label, and which ones aren't.

You can find it at

Click on "Food" and then "Cool Tool".

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