Country of Origin Labelling

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Country of Origin Labelling - widely abbreviated to COOL - is the next step to an entirely open marketplace where consumers can understand as well as see the product that they are purchasing and they can monitor the system of production which has brought it to their aisles. On January 15, 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the final rule for mandatory country of origin labeling required by the 2002 and 2008 farm bills. The rule became effective on March 16, 2009, 60 days after the date of publication.


Why should I be aware of this?

  • The basic objective of implementing COOL was that by tracking food items from farm to fork, the Department of Agriculture will be better equipped to monitor where the food chain safety precautions break down when things go wrong. It will be able to track diseases and stop them before they reach the consumers.
  • Today’s consumer wants to know where their food comes from. In a recent consumer survey it was found that 92 per cent of Americans agree that imported foods should be labelled by their country of origin. They seek this information not only to be assured of quality products but also because they want to know what industries and communities they are supporting or boycotting with their money; be they local, deprived, ethical, or eco-friendly.

All about Country of Origin Labelling

All commodities covered under COOL must be labeled at retail to indicate its country of origin. However, if the commodity is an ingredient in a processed food item, it is excluded from mandatory COOL. Also excluded are items that have undergone a physical or chemical change -- such as cooking, curing, or smoking -- or that has been combined with other food components such as chocolate, breading and tomato sauce. Food service establishments, such as restaurants, lunchrooms, cafeterias, food stands, bars, lounges and similar enterprises are also exempted.

Countries forced to ensure quality

There is no doubt that COOL will undoubtedly put pressure on countries to prioritize food quality. It becomes the responsibility of the entire food sector to ensure that they produce reliable products.

The country-of-origin labeling regulation consumer advocacy groups who are happy that it would provide important information to consumers concerned about the origin of their food. But processors and retailers are of the opinion that mandatory labeling will hurt their bottom line by increasing costs-from administrative and record keeping to segregating commodities based on country of origin.

What commodities are covered under COOL?

Fruits and vegetables, peanuts, pecans, ginseng, and macadamia nuts, only have to mention where they are grown. For many of these commodities as well as for seafood, it is acceptable to list the state, region, or locality.

Listing the country of origin for meat becomes a little more involved. Animals can be born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in a single country, in which case, the country-of-origin label is straightforward. In many cases, though, the animals might be born, raised, and slaughtered in different countries. Post mortem processing may take place in a different location, as well. Listings have to give details of each.

Fish and shellfish imported from a foreign country and not substantially processed in the U.S. shall be listed as “Product of Country X.” Fish and shellfish imported from a foreign country and substantially processed in the U.S. will be listed as “Product of Country X, Processed in the U.S.”

Processed foods, such as meatloaf, corned beef, breaded cutlets, sausage, flavored pork loin, breaded chicken tenders, roasted peanuts, fish sticks, fruit cups, mixed vegetables, and salad mixes that contain lettuce and carrots and/or packets of salad dressing are considered commodities and exempted from labelling.

90 degrees

Country-of-origin labeling is not new. Almost 80 years ago, the Tariff Act of 1930 required that all manufactured goods imported into the United States list the country of origin. Fast forward to 2002 when Congress amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to include COOL in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, also known as the 2002 Farm Bill. The regulation required retailers to inform consumers about the country of origin of ground and muscle cuts of beef, lamb, pork, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, perishable agricultural commodities (fruits and vegetables), and peanuts.

Additional cost

The USDA predicts little economic benefit from the new labels and says their biggest impact will be additional cost. Analysts have concluded that the labels will cost 1.2 million farmers and food businesses a combined $2.5 billion to implement in the first year. The estimate includes new paperwork requirements and possible changes to plant operations, line processing, product handling and storage. [1]


  • Country of Origin: What's in a Label?
  • Issues: Country of Origin Labeling
  • Commodities get COOL


  1. TheFishSite