florida-agriculture.com

Agriculture Press Release

December 3, 1998

Crawford Announces Nearly 1,500 Country of Origin
Labeling Violations in Last Three Years

TALLAHASSEE Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford announced today that his department has written 1,497 "Country of Origin Labeling" violations to supermarkets and other retail outlets in the last three years.

Stores that were cited did not comply with Floridas Country of Origin Labeling statute -- a law requiring foreign-grown produce to bear stickers or signs indicating where it was grown.

"During the past three years, Florida has been inundated with foreign-grown fruits and vegetables," Crawford said. " During the same period of time, a number of food-borne illness outbreaks associated with foreign products have occurred. The bottom line here is that Florida consumers deserve to know the source of the produce they buy at grocery stores."

Although Crawfords office has issued violation notices in every region of the state, the level of cooperation and compliance rate on the part of retailers is quite high, as violations occur in only 10 percent to 12 percent of inspections.

During the last three years, inspectors have issued $171,950 in fines to 487 repeat offenders. Crawford has authorized inspectors to initially issue a notice of violation. If the store is still not in compliance when it is reinspected, a $200 fine is issued. Fines are doubled each time a store is guilty of subsequent violations -- up to a maximum fine of $5,000.

"We are taking the health and well-being of our citizens seriously, and will continue to be vigilant about enforcing this law," Crawford said. "I am gratified to see that other states are looking at enacting their own Country of Origin law, and I am strongly supportive of a national law like this, as well."

To date, only Florida has a comprehensive law requiring labeling of foreign produce, but a number of other states are considering similar legislation.

Crawford has been at the forefront in efforts to get Congress to pass a national Country of Origin law, but efforts so far have been unsuccessful.

Crawford said he believes that citizens have the right to know where the food they eat comes from. Some foreign countries do not have as strict sanitation regulations and pesticide laws as are in place in the United States. In those cases, eating domestically grown fruits and vegetables is safer, Crawford said.

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For more information:

Terence McElroy
(850) 488-3022


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