Country of Origin Labeling….COOL Man
Well… maybe not so much in this case, as COOL stands for Country Of Origin Labeling. You may have heard about COOL – it was passed in the Farm Bill….in 2002. Finally after numerous delays, amendments and other congressional necessities, it was again amended with the 2008 Farm Bill and seemingly has finally been implemented. Although the Final Rule didn’t take effect until March 16, 2009. So much for expediency, what is this Bill?
In a nut shell (country of origin unknown), the COOL regulation requires certain meats, some fish and shellfish, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, certain nuts and ginseng sold by designated retailers to be labeled with the Country Of Origin. Sounds pretty straight forward and with recent issues around salmonella and so on, perhaps not a bad idea. Of course the devil is in the details and even in generally understanding the requirements. The rules aim was to help consumers understand if the food they were purchasing retail was imported or not. Toys for example, are similarly labeled – i.e. made in China. While the intent seems clear enough, the definitions are very broad and exclude numerous widely eaten foods such as processed foods – even roasted peanuts (processed.) Even certain foods that were mixed together don’t require COO Labeling. An example would be two different kinds of lettuce or mixed vegetables.
The rule was actually to go into effect after Sept. 30, 2008 with retailers getting six months to understand the rules and come into compliance. Then, and you knew this was coming, the government would issue the final set of rules. Of course, the final rules noted above may or may not be the final, final rule.
Some consumers and other groups view this as a “right to know” issue. Some retailers are using the regulations as an additional selling point – foods from exotic locations or locally grown, whichever you prefer. Our point today was to provide some information about COOL, what it means in general, and where you can go to find out more specifics.
The USDA oversees this regulation, so if it applies to your products or labeling requirements, you can find out more at United States Department of Agriculture.
Included in this news release is a letter from Secretary Tom Vilsack offering suggestions on voluntary practices to help insure consumers are adequately informed and that assumptively may be added at a later date.
On a more local note, The Colorado Department of Ag. and Colorado Proud is in the process of working up a fact sheet on COOL. Visit their website for more information.