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Wal-Mart Prepares for Voluntary COOL Labeling

BENTONVILLE, Ark.- With the recent passage of the omnibus appropriations bill that delayed mandatory country-of-origin labeling for two years, an industry report says Wal-Mart is preparing to voluntarily label fruits and vegetables in its produce departments.

Noting that the basis of an origin-labeling program must begin with accurate traceability procedures, Bruce Peterson, s.v.p. and general merchandise manager of perishables for Wal-Mart, was quoted as saying the chain's plan will get underway with a "traceability protocol," which will reportedly be established by the end of 2004.

Peterson said the chain "will be able to say with certainty" that it will "know precisely" the origin of its fresh produce by year's end. From there, Peterson says, the chain intends to have voluntary country-of-origin labeling in place on all fruit and vegetable commodities at some point in 2005.

Peterson called on retailers and industry leaders to work collectively toward voluntary labeling strategies in the next two years while working to identify challenges associated with the law.

In separate news, a civil rights suit filed against Wal-Mart by illegal immigrants was expanded Monday to accuse America's largest retailer of locking its janitors inside stores during their shifts.

The amendment to the lawsuit comes as a federal grand jury in Pennsylvania weighs evidence to determine whether Wal-Mart will face criminal charges in the use of illegal immigrants to clean its stores.
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