On November 23, 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Marketing Service Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) six month industry education and outreach program established within the 2013 Final Rule has concluded. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) conducted the program, as well as similar programs after the release of the 2008 Interim Final Rule and the 2009 Final Rule. The program was a constructive grace period to allow industries to assimilate to the new rule without penalty. AMS determined that this program would ensure that the industries effectively and rationally implement the final rule. Additionally, AMS is allowing the existing stock of muscle cut covered commodities processed and labeled before May 23, 2013 to clear the system as long as they are already in the market and in compliance with the 2009 COOL rule. AMS hopes that these provisions will “prevent retailer and supplier confusion and help alleviate some of the economic burden on regulated entities.” Lastly, AMS will allow products to be sold with less specific origin information as long as retail establishments provide the more specific information via other means such as signs. This method of informing consumers will be allowed until existing labeling and packaging materials have been completely used. For more information about COOL and the grace periods and exceptions that are in place, please see the Federal Register.
The COOL rule became mandatory on May 23, 2013, and requires retailers to label muscle cut covered commodities, some seafood, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, some nuts, and ginseng with information regarding the source of the product.
Written by Sarah L. Doyle - Research Assistant
The Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center
November 25, 2013