The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has said that it will miss the deadline for the publication of final regulations concerning voluntary country-of-origin labels for meat, produce and fish.

A deadline of 30 September was set by Congress for the final regulations to be published, but now it is likely that the proposed guidelines will be published next week after which the public will be given time to comment on the proposal. The guidelines will then be finalised by the USDA.

The proposed labels are to inform consumers of the origin of produce. Only items raised and processed in the US will be permitted to carry a US product label. US farm groups support the proposal, as it would give US farmers an advantage. Other groups, such as food companies and meatpackers oppose the proposal, viewing the labels as costly and unnecessary, reported Reuters News.

The labels will be voluntary to begin with but should become mandatory after a two-year period.