Country-of-origin labeling rules, long-delayed for fresh, perishable foods other than fish and shellfish, went into effect on September 30, 2008. They require supermarkets and mass-merchandise outlets to label or display the country of origin for meats, poultry, produce, and some nuts. Small food outlets, such as butcher shops and restaurants are exempt, and the rules do not apply to processed foods, like smoked salmon and cooked shrimp, or mixes, like bagged mixed salad greens, trail mix and fruit salad. Meats blended with products from several countries are not required to list the countries in any particular order. Any covered foods produced or packaged before September 30, do not
have to include the COOL information.

For many years, foods packaged in another country have been required to carry origin labeling; with the latest COOL implementation, almost all food should carry this information. Consumer groups have hailed the mandatory rule change, calling it a “great benefit for consumers.” Some critics have apparently expressed concerns about loopholes that could allow meat packers to choose from among the countries represented in their products for purposes of labeling them. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) reportedly complained to USDA that the loophole “gives consumers the impression that there is no domestically born, raised and slaughtered livestock and denies our American livestock
producers the opportunity to focus on promoting U.S. beef, lamb, pork, chicken, or goat meat.” See Consumers Union Press Release,
September 12, 2008; The Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2008; and Product Liability Law 360, September 29, 2008.

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.