(Sept. 3) SUN VALLEY, Idaho — When asked for feedback on a controversial labeling law, Idaho potato growers gave the coolest of responses.

Few growers raised a hand to indicate having received a letter lining out retailer demands on country of origin labeling, despite the many that have been reportedly sent to suppliers nationwide. Few were they aware of the possibility of a $10,000 fine per infraction.

The questions were posed by Karen Caplan, chairwoman of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, speaking Aug. 29 at the annual convention of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association, Idaho Falls.

“Retailers have determined the supplier will be responsible for labeling and the costs associated with that,” said Caplan, president and chief executive officer of Frieda’s Inc., Los Alamitos, Calif. “There are 5,000 or 6,000 produce items, and 33,000 supermarkets, so we’re a little worried, to say the least.

“You can let your representative know you don’t approve of the labeling law,” she added.

United president Tom Stenzel was also on hand, lamenting flat consumption across the produce department.

“We have not created the excitement in the store that we need to,” Stenzel said. “We’re letting our products become staples … part of the scenery. That’s not where we want to be.”

He said the blame lies above the store level.

“Produce at the supermarket is run on a program, like all foods now, like snack foods. They just want level sales … there is a lack of excitement.”