Country-of-Origin Labeling – Federal

On May 13, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, more commonly known as the 2002 Farm Bill. The new law required country of origin labeling (COOL) for beef, lamb, pork, fish, perishable agricultural commodities and peanuts. In October 2003 USDA issued a proposed rule [see Proposed Rule – Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling of Beef, Lamb, Pork, Fish, Perishable Agricultural Commodities, and Peanuts – issued October 30, 2003]

Underthe proposed rule, muscle cuts of beef (including veal), lamb and pork; ground beef, ground lamb and ground pork; farm-raised fish and shellfish; wild fish and shellfish; perishable agricultural commodities(fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables); and peanuts must be labeled at retail to indicate their country of origin. In addition, the notice of country of origin for fish and shellfish must include and distinguish between wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, as required by the legislation. The proposed rule also outlines the requirements for labeling products of mixed origin including products produced both in foreign markets and in the United States as well as labeling requirements for blended products. Additionally, recordkeeping requirements for retailers and their suppliers are outlined. [for more information see the USDA Country of Origin Labeling Home Page]

Regulations for a mandatory program must be promulgated no later than September 30, 2004.

InNovember 2002, the Western Organization of Resource Councils said that estimates by USDA of the implementation costs of COOL were unrealistic and inflated. "These numbers are so imaginary they would embarrass Enron’s accountants," says Mabel Dobbs, a rancher from Idaho and Chair of WORC’s Livestock Committee. USDA estimates are 10 times as much as actual costs in Florida which has had COOL requirements for fruits and vegetables for years.

Some states have already taken the initiative to implement mandatory programs. Wyoming followed the lead of Kansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota in passing a statute requiring all meat retailers to clearly label imported meat with the country of origin. Other states have passed similar laws, such as a 1979 Florida statute that requires country of origin labeling of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and honey, and allows "Produced in Florida" labels. A Maine labeling law passed in 1989 requires country of origin labeling of any produce imported from countries with pesticide standards lower than the U.S. regulations. Changes to the law in 1999 now requires country of origin labeling of all foreign produce packed in the state.

Country of Origin Labeling in the 2002 Farm Bill
Title X, Miscellaneous — Country of Origin Labeling
Section 10816 — Requires mandatory country of origin labeling for beef, lamb, pork, fish, perishable agricultural commodities, and peanuts after a two-year voluntary program. The Secretary is prohibited from establishing a mandatory identification system to verify the county of origin of a covered commodity but the Secretary may use, as a model, certification programs in existence on the date of enactment, May 13, 2002, including the carcass grading and certification system, voluntary country of origin beef labeling system, and those systems used to carry out the market access program under the Agricultural Trade Act and the National School Lunch Act. Any suppliers of covered commodities must provide information to the retailer indicating the products country of origin. If a retailer willfully violated this Section, they face a fine of not more than $10,000 for each offense. Guidelines for the voluntary program must be issued not later than September 30, 2002, and regulations for the mandatory program must be promulgated not later than September 30, 2004.


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