The Agricultural Marketing Service has issued an interim final rule1, effective September 30, 2008, requiring the mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) for the following agricultural goods (collectively, covered commodities):
- muscle cuts of beef (including veal), lamb, chicken, goat, and pork;
- ground beef, ground lamb, ground chicken, ground goat, and ground pork;
- perishable agricultural commodities;
- macadamia nuts, pecans, and peanuts; and
(Note that the COOL regulatory requirements for wild and farm raised fish and shellfish are already in effect (and were published in the October 5, 2004 Federal Register).
The interim final rule contains definitions, the requirements for consumer notification and product marking, and the recordkeeping responsibilities of both retailers and suppliers for covered commodities.
Comments must be submitted on or before September 30, 2008.
Press Release on Interim Rule
According to an AMS press release, the following are highlights of the interim final rule:
Covered commodities under COOL regulations must be labeled at retail to indicate their country of origin. However, they are excluded from mandatory COOL if they are an ingredient in a processed food item;
Definition of a processed food item under 7 CFR 65.220 is revised to provide additional clarity to as to items derived from a covered commodity that have undergone a physical or chemical change (e.g., cooking, smoking) or that have been combined with other covered commodities or other substantive food components (e.g., chocolate, tomato sauce) and are therefore excluded from COOL labeling;
Recordkeeping retention requirements for suppliers, etc. are reduced to one year (instead of two years as originally proposed);
Specific criteria that must be met for a covered commodity to bear a “U.S. country of origin” declaration are prescribed;
Penalties for both suppliers and retailers found in violation of the law are up to $1,000 per violation.