What's with the new food labels?
New food labels on familiar products in the meat and produce departments at grocery stores may be helpful to consumers evaluating their food choices, a Kansas State University specialist said.
The new labels are an outgrowth of the 2002 and 2008 farm bills and reflect changes in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's country-of-origin labeling requirements on retail foods, said Karen Blakeslee, Kansas State University Research and Extension food scientist.
Included in the requirements are retail muscle cuts such as beef and pork roasts and steaks. Ground beef, lamb, chicken, goat and pork; and perishable agricultural commodities such as fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables are also included, as are peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and ginseng, Blakeslee said.
Fish and shellfish also are subject to the country-of-origin labeling rules, and they're required to specify production methods (wild or farm-raised), she said.
Excluded from the labeling rule are processed foods that have undergone a physical or chemical change (such as cooking, smoking or curing) or have been combined with other covered commodities or components (such as breading or tomato sauce). Also exempt are restaurants, cafeterias, food stands and bars that serve food.
"Country-of-origin labeling rules will become mandatory March 16," said Blakeslee, who spends working hours answering food and food safety questions as coordinator of K-State's Rapid Response Center.
More information about country-of-origin labeling--also called COOL--is available on the USDA website: www.usda.gov. Information on choosing health-promoting foods is available at county and district Extension offices and on websites such as: www.oznet.ksu.edu/foodsafety and www.oznet.ksu.edu/humannutrition/.