USDA Launches Country of Origin Labels

On March 16, 2009, a new food safety law requiring country of origin labels went into effect in the United States. COOL, as it is more commonly referred to, is a mandatory congressional law requiring retailers to clearly state the country of origin for many of their products. The purpose of the law is to provide consumers with credible and accurate information, allowing for educated and informed purchasing decisions. Amid recent troubles with contaminated goods, Congress believes COOL will give consumers peace of mind when purchasing. According to the Center for Disease Control, each year over 76 million Americans get sick, more than 300,000 are hospitalized and approximately 5,000 people die due to food borne illnesses. The USDA hopes to curb these alarming numbers by enabling informed consumers.
The rule covers muscle cuts and ground beef, veal, lamb, pork, chicken and goat, as well as wild and farm raised fish and shellfish. Perishable agricultural commodities, such as fruits and vegetables, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and ginseng are also required to display labels. The country of origin labels can be provided in a number of ways but all must be legibly written in a conspicuous location with limited acceptable abbreviations. Symbols and flags alone are not acceptable. The USDA will be conducting reviews and audits to ensure complete compliance with all COOL regulations. Violations can carry penalties of up to $1,000 for retailers and suppliers.
 For more information and to find a detailed list of all the regulation guidelines associated with the country of origin labeling program, please visit:



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