Thursday, July 05, 2007

Mandatory COOL

When it comes to the foods we eat, we are like babes in the woods—at least most of us are. We have grown up believing that the government would never do anything to intentionally harm us and they are always in our court, ready to do our bidding.

Sorry, if this were ever true, it was a long time ago although it seems to be worrisome reminder of where our naiveté can lead us….

The fact of the matter is that, today, the consumer is the last one our government seems to care about.

This was brought home in stunning clarity when dozens of our pets seemed to collapse for no reason and eventually die.

It was only then that we realized that not only was our pet’s food tainted but that the tainted ingredients came from someplace else, in this case China.

It was like in one moment the veil was lifted from our eyes.

Were our pets the canaries in the mine?

Were we being forewarned of what could happen to us?

Many think so….

With increasing concerns being voiced by the public, we were to learn that the fish they consume may be from China, the vitamins from China, and many of the other products they consume—including pork and lamb—from distant countries of origin.

Now, this may not be all bad; but the American point of view is that it should be “our choice.” In other words, countries of origin printing should be included on all imported products leaving the choice up to the consumer as to whether he decides to purchase lamb from Australia or pomegranates from India.

Probing a little deeper, we discover that the government has not fulfilled its obligation to the American people and were it not for the tainting of the pet food, we might never have even thought about where our food comes from…

This has caused the people to demand country of origin labeling and a policy where products are at least labeled if not inspected or monitored. The revelation as to what really is going on has been disturbing at best; it’s as if our leaders were trying to put one over on us.

First of all, let me say that there is a law on the books that is called COOL that says that label of origin packaging is the law.

Country of Origin Labeling covers beef, pork, lamb, fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood and peanuts. But most of us would never know it…

Why? Because it has not been enforced.

This despite the fact that we import more than 62 billion dollars worth of imported food products annually.

One might posit the question why?

The various lobbies say that it would be too expensive to manage.

The Livestock industry for instance claims that it would cost them nearly two billion dollars to implement such a program.

Many think that this is just a smoke screen to keep American consumers deaf, dumb and happy and many resent being treated so cavalierly.

For example, the beef packers would prefer you didn’t know that the chopped beef you buy that bears the USDA seal, may be made from different cuts of beef.

And if that weren’t enough, those cuts could come from cattle from different countries.

The real problem is with our representatives.

Congress has responsibility for supervising and monitoring what happens with our food. .

Largely, they have kept silent.

Why? Well, perhaps large donations to a congressman’s or senator’s campaign chest may have something to do with it….

For example, Henry Bonilla, Representative from Texas and head of the agricultural subcommittee on agriculture, delayed the necessary country of origin legislation year after year….

Some suggest that his position is due to his belief system; others are more inclined to point to the $158, 328 in campaign contributions he received in 2006 from the livestock industry making him the biggest recipient in Congress.

Another official said it was not uncommon for representatives to receive “contributions” or donations to their reelection campaigns from special interests as if to condone such behavior as ‘normal.’.

Whatever the reason, in the end it is the American citizen who is short-changed.

Until citizens recognize that business’ love affair with government is not in their own best interests, abuses like this will flow unabatedly.

In this particular case, it looks like COOL at any rate will be enforced beginning in 2008, one small victory in a battle most of us are losing because we have left our protection up to others….

Les Aaron
The Armchair Curmudgeon.

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