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AGRICULTURE DEPT. CRITICIZES MEAT LABELING REQUIREMENT

Requiring meat to be labeled as domestic or imported would cost the government $60 million a year to enforce and could backfire on producers by hurting U.S. exports, according to an internal Agriculture Department memorandum.

In the memo, senior USDA officials also said the labeling requirement now moving through Congress would "mislead and confuse" consumers.

In a move to help financially stressed producers, the Senate inserted the labeling requirement in an agricultural spending bill last month. The provision is not included in the House's version of the legislation, so a House-Senate conference committee will decide whether it stays in the final bill.

The memo was written by the directors of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, which would enforce the labeling requirement, and the Foreign Agricultural Service, which oversees U.S. exports.

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