Marias River Livestock Association (MRLA) is a local livestock association with membership from Glacier, Liberty, Pondera and Toole Counties in Montana. MRLA advocates for an agriculture friendly policy environment and the education of livestock producers and the consumers of agricultural goods.
MRLA is in agreement and supports the proposed rule and strong enforcement of that rule.
Consumers expect country of origin labeling to be clear, transparent and truthful. When they read “Made in the USA,” or “Product of the USA,” the assumption is that the product is not only processed in the USA but also sourced from the USA.
Recently there has been reason for consumers to seek country of origin labeling on their beef products.
This summer at least 54 people from six Mexico municipalities fell ill to Clenbuterol poisoning (https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2020/08/suspected-clenbuterol-poisonings-in-mexico-under-investigation/) after ingesting meat contaminated with the drug used to increase muscle gain in beef. The drug is illegal for use in cattle in the USA. US beef producers are concerned that consumers are unable to decern USA born, raised and harvested beef from imported beef that was harvested in Mexico or cattle imported from Mexico but harvested here in the USA.
The 2017 Brazilian rotten meat scandal is also fresh on both consumers and cattle producers’ minds. Consumers deserve the right to have clear and transparent labeling when it comes to their food. United States beef cattle producers should have the exclusive right to the “Made in the USA” or “Product of the USA” label for their cattle born, raised and harvested here in the USA.
The September 8, 2020, Daily Livestock Report, shows that imports of frozen, fresh and cooked meats are increased this year stating, “Total imports of fresh/frozen and cooked beef were 127,174 MT, 40.7% higher than a year ago. Imports from all markets were higher as strong prices in the US market and a slowdown in China demand encouraged world traders to focus on the US market.” (https://bit.ly/35AmocW) Also, since the beginning of the calendar year, imports from Canada and Mexico have totaled 1,114,980 head of live cattle, which is comingled into our beef supply. ( https://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/) There are 38 countries eligible to export meat and poultry to the USA. (https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/international-affairs/importing-products/eligible-countries-products-foreign-establishments/eligible-countries-and-products)This constant imported supply of live cattle and beef continue to flood our markets with fraudulent labels that mislead consumers to believe this is a product of USA cattle harvested here in the USA.
The removal of Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling Requirements for Beef and Pork Muscle Cuts, Ground Beef, and Ground Pork via the amendments in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ113/PLAW-114publ113.pdf ) should not have become an avenue by which large meat packing corporations could then fraudulently label foreign meat as “Product of the USA.”
MRLA asserts that the current practice of labeling meat from live animals imported into the USA and imported frozen, fresh or cooked beef and pork as “Product of the USA” is clearly inconsistent with the current Enforcement Policy from December 1997 (https://www.ftc.gov/public-statements/1997/12/enforcement-policy-statement-us-origin-claims) stating products carrying “unqualified U.S. origin claims should be substantiated by evidence that the product is all or virtually all made in the United State.” Also, The Policy Statement makes it clear “The fact that a product is not required to be marked with a foreign country of origin does not mean that it is permissible to promote that product as “Made in USA.””
While it is understood that the FTC does not require labeling of a product with country of origin, MRLA would like FTC to enforce the current 1997 Policy and the current proposed MUSA rule and NOT allow Product of the USA to be used on any meat product that was not born, raised and harvested in the USA.
MRLA supports the FTC’s strengthening of the MUSA rule and agrees that FTC should prohibit marketers from including unqualified MUSA claims on labels unless: (1) Final assembly or processing of the product occurs in the United States, (2) all significant processing that goes into the product occurs in the United States, and (3) all or virtually all ingredients or components of the product are made and sourced in the United States.
Where a large portion of meat in the USA is purchased other than retail stores, MRLA further believes that unqualified MUSA claims made by any restaurant or food service operation should also be substantiated by evidence that the product is all or virtually all made in the United State.
Consumers need clear and transparent labeling to make their purchasing choices.
MRLA urges the FTC to use strong deterrents to prevent mislabeling of all products but especially food products. MRLA further encourages FTC to pursue and discipline in a memorable way those companies that blatantly disregard the consumers right to clear and transparent labeling.
President of Marias River Livestock Association
Shelby, Montana 59484
Comments submitted to the FTC on the proposed rule for Made in the USA (MUSA) can be seen here. https://beta.regulations.gov/document/FTC-2020-0056-0001/comment