What is the COOL labeling law and how are food items regulated?

The United States Department of Agriculture regulates Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) a labeling law that requires retailers to notify their customers with information regarding the source of certain foods, called “covered commodities”.

Michigan State University Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture recommends the following information to inform customers about the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law.

What is COOL?

Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is a labeling law that requires retailers, such as full-line grocery stores, supermarkets and club warehouse stores, to notify their customers with information regarding the source of certain foods. Final COOL regulations became effective in March 2009. The United States Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Marketing Service regulates Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).

Historically, the 2002 Farm Bill, the 2002 Appropriations, and the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (Act) to require retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin of covered commodities.

What are “covered commodities”?

Covered commodities include muscle cuts of beef (including veal), lamb, chicken, goat, and pork; ground beef, ground lamb, ground chicken, ground goat, and ground pork; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; perishable agricultural commodities; macadamia nuts; pecans; ginseng; and peanuts. The implementation of mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) for all covered commodities, except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, was delayed until Sept. 30, 2008. The 2008 Farm Bill contained a number of provisions that amended the COOL provisions in the Act. These changes included the addition of chicken, goat, macadamia nuts, pecans, and ginseng as covered commodities, the addition of provisions for labeling products of multiple origins, as well as a number of other changes.

Who has to follow COOL?

Retail establishments such as full-line grocery stores, supermarkets and warehouse club stores, who are subject to the licensing requirements under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA), are required to provide COOL information to consumers at the point of sale. Retailers who purchase an aggregate of $230,000 of fruits and vegetables per year are subject to PACA licensing requirements.

Consumers can obtain more information by logging into the Agricultural Marketing Services website.

A consumer brochure is available online.

To contact an expert in your area, visit the expert page, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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