Final rule on COOL
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday announced its final rule for mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) required by Congress in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills.
The USDA said the final rule will be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 15 and will become effective March 16.
The rule covers:
' Muscle cuts and ground beef, lamb, chicken, goat and pork.
' Wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish.
' Perishable agricultural commodities (specifically fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables).
' Macadamia nuts.
The origin labeling for these goods must be provided at the retail level.
• COOL implementation heats up
• CBP proposes revision of country of origin rules
• USDA prepares for final COOL implementation
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 and other substantive food components, such as chocolate, breading, and tomato sauce, the USDA said.
Also exempt are food service establishments, such as restaurants, lunchrooms, cafeterias, food stands, bars, lounges and similar businesses.
The final rule outlines the requirements for labeling covered commodities and the recordkeeping requirements for retailers and suppliers. '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,' the USDA said.
The USDA warned that retailers and suppliers who fail to comply with the rule may be assessed penalties of up to $1,000 per violation.
The USDA said it plans to make funding available to 'accelerate and expand' training of state cooperator employees, initiate development of an automated review tracking system, conduct a retailer survey, and facilitate education and outreach activities. The department currently has cooperative agreements with 42 states to conduct retail surveillance reviews, and will conduct its own reviews in states where these agreements are not in place, and perform supply chain audits.
The U.S. meats and produce industries say they're preparing to implement COOL now that the final USDA regulations are in hand.
'Since the beginning of this process, United Fresh has helped drive this significant policy decision into a workable and cost-effective labeling program for fresh and fresh-cut produce,' said Robert Guenther, the trade group's senior vice president of public policy, in a statement. 'USDA's final rule is a positive step in that direction.
'It is now incumbent upon the entire supply chain to continue to work together and take steps to reduce total supply chain cost and minimize potential for market disruption,' he added.
However, not everyone is pleased with the outcome. The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) claimed the USDA created a 'loophole' in the regulations that allow meat packers to easily commingle overseas-raised cattle with U.S. cattle in ground beef.
'For months now the packers have been effectively desensitizing U.S. consumers by mislabeling USA beef as if it were a North American product (i.e., 'Product of the U.S., Canada, Mexico'),' said Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA chief executive officer, in a statement published on CattleNetwork.com.
'This is wrong and we will go right back to Congress if the packers do not immediately cease this deceptive practice,' he said. 'Consumers have the right to know where their food comes from, and USDA and the packers shouldn't deny them that right.'
Details about COOL are available here. ' Chris Gillis