COOL Changes For Food Labels

Food Labels With Country Of Origin
How many times have you gone to the grocery store and wondered where that vegetable was grown or where that piece of meat came from?

Well, you need wonder no more.

Shoppers will now know where a lot of food was grown. A new law requires country of origin information to be displayed on fresh and frozen vegetables, most meats and some kinds of nuts, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.

Are the new labels a good idea?

"More information is always better," one shopper in Bloomfield, N.J. told her.

The law was originally intended, in part, to promote U.S. products, but benefits consumers as well, says Jean Halloran, a Consumers Union food policy expert.

"Consumers do care where their food comes from," she said. "Consumers Union conducted its own poll a year ago and found that 92 percent of consumers would like to know the country of origin for the food they buy."

Even though supermarkets pull products when tainted food scares occur, experts say the new rules will make consumers smarter shoppers.

"For example," says Halloran, "where we had this problem last summer with salmonella in peppers from Mexico. In the future, we'll be able to avoid buying the peppers from Mexico and go on buying the peppers that come from somewhere else. Consumers definitely will want to avoid the problem food. "

"It's kind of scary these days," another shopper observed. "You hear about milk, and you hear about chocolate. They found it tainted. So now, now you kind of worry about things.

In the meat aisle, Miller pointed out, you may find products labeled with more than one country. For example, cattle raised in Mexico, then exported to the U.S. for processing.

Is it kind of confusing to see three different countries on the same piece of meat?

"Yes. I'd like to see one country," shopper Jean LaBriola says. "I just worry about how things are raised in countries that maybe don't have the same standards as the United States."

Many foods won't be required to carry country of origin labels, including processed meats, such as sausage, Miller notes.

The exemptions can be a bit confusing. For example, the country of origin must be labeled on raw cashews, but roasted cashews are exempt. Frozen vegetables will have to have the labels, but frozen mixed vegetables won't. And Spam, sometimes called mystery meat, will be allowed to "remain" a mystery. It's exempt as well.

Grocery stores will have up to six months in order to comply with the new regulations.