Fresh ProducePotential Consequences of Country-of-Origin Labeling Gao ID: T-RCED-99-172 April 28, 1999
The containers in which fresh produce from abroad enters the United States must be marked with the country of origin. This identification, however, is not required to be maintained for loose, or bulk, produce at the retail level. A GAO review of the potential costs and benefits of mandatory country-of-origin labeling found that the magnitude of compliance and enforcement costs for this requirement at the retail level would depend on several factors, including the extent to which current labeling practices would have to be changed. In addition, according to the Department of Agriculture and industry, mandatory labeling at the retail level could be viewed by other countries as a trade barrier. This testimony summarizes the April 1999 report, GAO/RCED-99-112.
GAO noted that: (1) the magnitude of compliance and enforcement costs for mandatory country-of-origin labelling for fresh produce at the retail level would depend on several factors, including the extent to which labelling practices would have to be changed; (2) in addition, enforcement would be difficult; (3) labelling could be viewed by other countries as a trade barrier if, for example, they are concerned that additional costs may be incurred by their exporters; (4) because of the time lag between the outbreak of an illness and the identification of the cause, labelling would be of limited value in responding to produce-related outbreaks of illnesses; and (5) surveys indicate that most people favor country-of-origin labelling; however, they rate information on freshness, nutrition, handling and storage, and preparation tips as more important.