Country Of Origin Labeling Officially Begins Today

The long-awaited country of origin labeling or COOL will be enforced beginning today — so you can expect to see a “COOL” on “muscle cuts and ground beef (including veal), pork, lamb, goat and chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and ginseng.”

Most foods packaged (canned, boxed or bagged) in another country have had to be labeled as such already, and this new law extends the practice to fresh foods. Still, there are lots of exceptions. Here’s a little chart that will give you an idea of what to expect at the grocery store.

COOL

UNCOOL

Meat sold in supermarkets. Meat sold in butcher shops. Labeling is only required in stores that purchase a certain minimum amount ($230,000) of fresh or frozen produce a year. Butchers do not purchase any produce, so meat sold by them is exempt.


Fish sold in supermarkets.
Fish sold in fish markets. Labeling is only required in stores that purchase a certain minimum amount ($230,000) of fresh or frozen produce a year. Fish markets do not purchase any produce, so fish sold there is exempt.


Raw peanuts Roasted peanuts, peanut butter (processed food is exempt).*


Pork chops
Ham and Bacon (processed food is exempt).* +


Sliced cantaloupe
Fruit Salad (mixtures are exempt).*


Raw almonds
Trail Mix (mixtures are exempt).*


Frozen carrots
Frozen peas and carrots (mixtures are exempt).*


Raw shrimp
Cooked shrimp (cooking is considered processing, which is exempt).*


Fresh salmon
Smoked salmon (smoking is considered processing, which is exempt).*


Frozen peas Canned peas (processed food is exempt).*


Bagged lettuce
Bagged Mixed Salad Greens (mixtures are exempt).*


Lettuce in produce section
Lettuce in salad bars (restaurants are exempt, including supermarket salad bars).



*Except if packaged or canned abroad, in which case COOL is required, under older laws.
+The Bush Administration’s final rule on COOL was published on January 16, 2009. However, Tom Vilsack, the
incoming Secretary of Agriculture, thought that portions of the final rule created loopholes that violated “the letter,
spirit and intent” of the law and so, on February 20, 2009, he send a letter to the industry asking them to close
those loopholes. For processing, the letter states, “The definition of processed contained in the Final Rule may
be too broadly drafted. Even if products are subject to curing, smoking, broiling, grilling, or steaming, voluntary
labeling would be appropriate.” If the companies do not label such items with COOL, Secretary Vilsack has said
the USDA would amend the regulations to require COOL in such cases.

COOL rules on food labeling now fully in effect [Consumer Reports]
(Photo:Mr. Oliver)