Uncover the origins of food and medicine
Loopholes make it hard to know where drugs are made
Monday, July 27, 2009
When you buy food or medicine for your child, you read the label. But does the label accurately represent the origin of the product inside? Why do some products, like apples, reveal the growing location while other products, such as applesauce, conceal the manufacturing location? Why do some medicines like Children’s Motrin say nothing about production location?
Since March, a new Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law requires large retail food stores (like Jewel and Dominick’s) to inform consumers about the country of origin of fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, some nuts and most meat. COOL requires a label like, "Made in the U.S.A." or "Product of Chile" for all of the above-mentioned items only when being sold to a retail food establishment. Restaurants, cafeterias, salad bars and lunchrooms are exempt.
But why aren’t all products on store shelves labeled with the country of origin? If the manufacturer within the United States processes a food item, no country of origin label is required. Processed means changing the character of the food (e.g. frying, broiling or drying).
The same procedure is true for medicines like Children’s Motrin. If an imported medicine comes prepackaged for a consumer, then the medicine must be labeled with "Product of Country X." But if the ingredients of the medicine are shipped to the United States for further manufacturing, the end product needs no country-of-origin label. The FDA requires no country-of-origin label, only contact information for the consumer.
Some lawmakers feel current country-of-origin labeling doesn’t go far enough. A bill in Congress (H.R. 759) asks for further labeling of processed food, like applesauce. The bill would require all processed foods labeled with their country of origin. Whether the bill would require the country of origin for each ingredient used in the applesauce is still being discussed.
Foods requiring country-of-origin labeling:
• All fresh fruits and vegetables
• Peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts
• Ground chicken, beef, pork, goat and lamb
• Fish and shellfish (wild and farm raised)
Foods not requiring country-of-origin labeling:
• Macaroni and cheese
• Dried fruits
• Breaded chicken tenders
• Fish sticks
• Fruit medley
• Canned tuna