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New Poll Shows Consumers Overwhelming Support Country-of-Origin Labeling on Food

June 20, 2005

New Poll Shows Consumers Overwhelming Support Country-of-Origin Labeling on Food

Congress Should Expedite Mandatory Labeling Requirements, Not Substitute Weak Voluntary Measures

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new public opinion poll released today on country-of-origin labeling for food shows that an overwhelming majority of consumers favor the concept and want the labeling required by law so they know where their food is raised or produced, said Public Citizen, which commissioned the survey. As the Senate this week considers the agriculture appropriations bill, which would again delay country-of-origin labeling, the consumer group reiterated its demand to lawmakers to prioritize the implementation of a mandatory labeling program. 

Eight-five percent of those surveyed say they want country-of-origin labeling (COOL). Additionally, 74 percent support the idea of Congress making such labeling a mandatory program, and 55 percent have “little or not much trust” in the meat, seafood, produce and grocery industries to voluntarily provide country-of-origin information. The poll, which was conducted June 9-12 by Lake Snell Perry Mermin & Associates, surveyed 1,004 adults living in private households in the continental United States. 

In light of this new data, Public Citizen repeated its call to Congress to implement mandatory COOL as soon as possible. Congress has repeatedly delayed the effective date for 2002 Farm Bill requirements that ordered mandatory country-of-origin labeling on meat, peanuts, seafood, and fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables sold at retail. In April 2005, the seafood requirement went into effect, but for other foods mandatory labeling has been delayed until September 2006.

“Country-of-origin labels are just common sense. What is industry hiding by not wanting to reveal where its food is produced?” asked Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s food program. “More than half of the consumers polled in this survey didn’t trust the food industry to volunteer this information. We think it’s time for members of Congress to listen to their constituents and mandate that industry label its food products.”

   The poll asked:

  • Do you favor or oppose requiring the meat, seafood, produce and grocery industries to include on food labels the name of the country where the food is grown or produced?

Favor   85 percent

Oppose   11 percent

Don’t Know    4 percent

  • There is a bill in Congress to require labels on the food we buy with the name of the country where meat, seafood, or produce is grown or produced.   [ROTATE] __Should Congress require industry to provide this information or __should industry be allowed to decide if they want to provide this information?

Congress Require    74 percent

Industry Decide    21 percent

Neither  2 percent

Don’t Know     3 percent

  • How much would you trust the meat, seafood, produce and grocery industries to voluntarily provide information about where food products come from – a lot, some, only a little, not much at all?

A lot/ Some   44 percent

A little/ Not much    55 percent

Don’t Know   1 percent

“Consumers are becoming more vigilant about the onslaught of threats in today’s world,” said Hauter. “From terrorism to mad cow disease, consumers believe they themselves can best protect their families from danger. Country-of-origin labels give consumers information they need to factor into their buying decisions.”

Just two weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to once again delay mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat. Now, it’s the Senate’s turn. Public Citizen urges senators to heed consumers’ preferences and reject the provision in the agriculture appropriations bill that would delay mandatory COOL for meat until 2007.