PCC Natural Markets leads industry in country-of-origin labeling

Voluntary labeling of meat and fresh produce in place at the nation's largest natural foods cooperative.

Seattle, Wash., July 23, 2007 — PCC Natural Markets (PCC) is implementing country-of-origin labeling (COOL) of meat, seafood, peanuts and fresh produce, even without mandatory requirements.

A vote for mandatory meat labeling on July 19 taken by the Agriculture Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives moves this twice-delayed provision of the 2002 Farm Bill (The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act) to the Senate floor. Delay of mandatory COOL is attributed to complaints that record-keeping and labor involved in compliance would be too costly for meat importers, meat packers and large retailers who often mix meat products. Proponents have countered by saying that consumers deserve to know where their food is from and, if given a choice, prefer domestic products as they have more confidence in the safety of food produced in the U.S.

By example, and in a letter to the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service dated July 12, 2007 (sent also to Washington state's representatives to the U.S. Congress), PCC has urged implementation of mandatory labeling of all products mandated by the 2002 Farm Bill (beef, pork, lamb, peanuts and fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables), as well as processed seafood.

"All meat and fresh seafood products, as well as fresh produce and peanuts, will carry country-of-origin labels at PCC by the end of August," said Paul Schmidt, director of merchandising. "Doing so has not increased our costs or imposed any undue burden, as opponents have claimed." The last PCC meat vendor is now reprinting its labels, upon PCC's request, to indicate "Product of the U.S.A."

Recent polls, such as one recently published in Consumer Reports, states that 92 percent of Americans want to know the source countries of the food they purchase. The many safety violations involving products from China have exacerbated food safety concerns. Consumers want to purchase U.S. products, but without mandatory COOL, they're denied the ability to differentiate between U.S. and imported products.

About PCC Natural Markets: Headquartered in Seattle, Wash., PCC Natural Markets is a certified organic retail cooperative with annual sales of $110 million and an active membership of nearly 40,000 households. PCC operates eight stores in the Seward Park, View Ridge, Greenlake, West Seattle, Fremont, Kirkland, Redmond, and Issaquah neighborhoods. www.pccnaturalmarkets.com

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Diana Chapman
PCC Natural Markets

206-547-1222, ext. 106
206-390-6657 (cell)

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