Country of Origin Labeling

Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is a labeling law that requires retailers, such as full-line grocery stores, supermarkets, and club warehouse stores, notify their customers with information regarding the source of certain foods. Food products, (covered commodities) contained in the law include muscle cut and ground meats: chicken, lamb and goat; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and ginseng. Regulations for fish and shellfish covered commodities (7 CFR Part 60) became effective in 2005. The final rule for all covered commodities (7 CFR Part 60 and Part 65) went into effect on March 16, 2009. Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) is responsible for administration and enforcement of COOL. The Act provides AMS the ability to fine $1,000 per violation after a 30 day period to rectify any violations of the act.

Record-keeping requirements for suppliers (defined in the CFR as including, but not limited to, growers, slaughter facilities, distributors, handlers, packers, and processors) mandate that they must establish and identify the immediate previous source and immediate subsequent recipient of a covered commodity for a period of 1 year from the date of the transaction.  In the case of slaughter facilities, packers may rely upon producer affidavits to initiate claims.  Affidavits must be made by someone having first-hand knowledge of, and ability to identify, animals unique to the transaction.  In lieu of an affidavit, identification of slaughter animals that are part of a National Animal Identification System (NAIS) may also rely on the presence of an official ear tag and/or the presence of any accompanying animal markings on which to base claims of origin.  AMS will conduct supplier audits of approximately 2% of retail reviews tracing COOL records back through all suppliers in the chain of custody.  For tracking purposes, the University of Idaho has developed a white paper with record keeping samples which can be found here.

In 2008 the department entered into a cooperative agreement with AMS to conduct COOL Retail Surveillance Audits at retail establishments within the state.  The Consumer Services Bureau of NMDA’s Standards and Consumer Services Division agreed to take on this responsibility and attended training seminars in accordance with the act. Neither NMDA nor CSB has responsibility for enforcing or fining those found out of compliance, nor does the department conduct tracebacks further than that at the retail establishment.  Currently AMS has funding to conduct surveillance at approximately 5% of the approximately 41,000 Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act licensed facilities in the U.S.

For more information or if you have any questions you can contact Raymond E. Johnson at 575-646-1616.  You can also visit the following COOL sites of interest:

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service

National Cattleman’s Beef Association

University of Idaho