USDA outlines details of final COOL rule
Mar 1, 2009 12:00 PM
The United States Department of Agriculture has announced details of the final regulation for the mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) program required by the 2002 and 2008 farm bills. Full text of the final rule has been published in the January 15, 2009 Federal Register. The rule takes effect March 16, 2009 — 60 days after the date of publication.
This rule covers perishable agricultural commodities (specifically fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables); muscle cuts and ground beef, lamb, chicken, pork, and goat; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; macadamia nuts; pecans; peanuts; and ginseng.
Commodities covered under COOL must be labeled at retail to indicate country of origin. For fish and shellfish, the method of production — wild or farm-raised — must be specified. Commodities are excluded from mandatory COOL if they are ingredients in processed food items.
The definition of a processed food item remains unchanged from the August 1, 2008, interim final rule. Excluded from COOL labeling are items derived from a covered commodity that has undergone a physical or chemical change — such as cooking, curing, or smoking — or that has been combined with other covered commodities or other substantive food components such as chocolate, breading, and tomato sauce.
Also exempt are foodservice establishments such as restaurants, lunchrooms, cafeterias, food stands, bars, and lounges.
The final rule outlines the requirements for labeling covered commodities and the recordkeeping requirements for retailers and suppliers. The law provides for penalties of up to $1,000 per violation for both retailers and suppliers not complying with the law.
The rule prescribes specific criteria that must be met for a covered commodity to bear a “United States country of origin” declaration. In addition, the rule also contains provisions for labeling covered commodities of foreign origin, meat products from multiple origins, ground meat products, as well as commingled covered commodities.
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