Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Buying only U.S. food is a tall order

Buying only U.S. food is a tall order
  Jul 11, 2007 USA Today  

By Elizabeth Weise,

Half of grocery shoppers are making an effort to buy U.S. food products, but it isn't easy, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows. More than half of those shoppers say they find it difficult to determine which countries produced the items in their grocery store.

Products from China rank highest on those shoppers' suspicion scale: 83% are concerned about food from China, compared with 61% concerned about foods from Mexico and 39% concerned about foods from the USA.

The poll questioned 921 adults who shop for groceries. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The numbers are echoed in a survey last month by Consumers Union, the non-profit that publishes Consumer Reports magazine. In that survey, 92% of consumers said they wanted imported foods labeled with country of origin.

"What that says is consumers want to know where and how their food is produced. Country-of-origin labeling is a huge step toward that," says Urvashi Rangan, a senior scientist at Consumers Union.

Country-of-origin labeling rules are scheduled to go into effect for beef, lamb, pork, peanuts, and fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables on Sept. 30. The Department of Agriculture is gathering public comment on the rule, which twice has been postponed by Congress since it was passed in 2002.

Rangan says such labeling is "another important way for consumers to do their own tracking, especially when imported food products fail."

But buying only U.S.-produced foods would take consumers back to the 19th century, says Regina Hildwine, senior director for food labeling and standards at the Grocery Manufacturers of America.

"We've become accustomed to the availability of a wide variety of foods at all seasons," she says. "Our marketplace really does come from the whole world."


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