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  • "USDA's new country-of-origin labeling guidelines for fresh and frozen produce, meat, seafood and peanuts will only generate an endless paper trail, require massive labels that may cover an entire package of meat, and create confusion for consumers without providing them any real benefit," said Tim Hammonds, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). "In addition to being extraordinarily difficult to implement, adhering to the guidelines will be extremely expensive for food producers, which will ultimately increase the cost of food for consumers."

    Hammonds was responding to guidelines issued late yesterday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to implement a new law calling for voluntary country of origin labeling for two years. After that, labeling becomes mandatory. FMI believes that the guidelines place an excessive burden on the entire food production and distribution chain, and that they will actually discourage voluntary labeling by retailers.

    "Food retailers are being asked to keep records of the country of origin of more than 500 products in each store for two years. The country in which each processing stage occurs for every single fresh or frozen vegetable, every fresh or frozen piece of fruit, every fresh or ground cut of beef, pork or lamb, every piece of fish, and every peanut will need to be identified and documented," said Hammonds.

    He added, “All of the documentation required by the program places a particularly unfair burden on the smallest operators."

    FMI noted that it is gratified the guidelines require the entire food production chain to be engaged to implement the program. Suppliers could be asked to utilize USDA's new user-fee-based advisory audit system to verify the accuracy of the country of origin information suppliers are required to provide retailers under the law.

    "In addition to the endless paperwork, retailers will incur higher costs from the additional labor, signage and displays required for country-of-origin labeling. The average produce department alone carries more than 400 items year-round, and displays change constantly due to supplies and produce perishability. Retailers will face a nearly impossible task putting and keeping the right label or sign in place at the right time.

  • “It is time to bring reforms to the prescription drug marketplace and provide consumers with more choice of and greater access to affordable medications,” said John Motley III, senior vice president of public and government affairs at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). “Currently, brand-name pharmaceutical companies are able to unfairly delay less expensive generic drugs from reaching the nation’s pharmacies.”

    Motley’s comments were included in a letter to members of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, which is currently reviewing proposed drug reform legislation (H.R. 5311 and H.R. 5272). Specifically, the proposal would reform the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-417) by closing loopholes in the Hatch-Waxman law. The purpose of the 1984 statute extends patent protection for new brand-name medications for up to an additional five years to compensate pharmaceutical manufacturers for the time lost in obtaining market approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    The proposed reforms to Hatch-Waxman would accelerate generic drug introductions and expedite resolutions of patent disputes. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has endorsed the reforms, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the changes to the 1984 law will save consumers and employers approximately $60 billion over the next 10 years. The reforms would not discourage pharmaceutical companies from making future investments in the development of the next generation of innovative drugs.

    “As an industry that has approximately 3.5 million employees, our members are becoming increasingly concerned over the runaway costs for prescription drugs, which are increasing by a much as 10 to 20 percent annually,” Motley said. “If this disturbing trend continues unabated, it will undermine the ability of self-insured companies to provide their associates with health care coverage, and it may in fact force many companies to increase employee premiums, raise their co-payments or reduce benefits in order to offset these rising costs.”

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