Country of Origin Labeling (COOL)

Under the Tariff Act of 1930, frozen products are required to be labeled for foreign content. Subsequent to the 2002 Farm Bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued voluntary country of origin labeling (COOL) guidelines for meat (beef, pork and lamb), fish, shellfish, peanuts, and produce, including frozen produce. The Department of Agriculture’s action responded to legislation requiring such voluntary guidelines and also requiring USDA to issue mandatory country of origin labeling regulations by September 30, 2004. The legislation was enacted as part of that year’s Farm Bill (formally known as the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002). In 2003, Congress postponed implementation of mandatory COOL for everything but fish and seafood until 2008.

In 2004, USDA published an interim final rule for the mandatory country of origin labeling of fish and shellfish. Effective April 4, 2005, this rule required that certain covered seafood commodities be labeled at retail to indicate their country of origin and their method of production (wild and/or farm-raised). As required by law, certain processed seafood products, as well as seafood products served at food service establishments, remained exempt from these requirements.

In August 2007, USDA reopened the comment period for COOL for both the Interim Final Rule for fish and shellfish and the Proposed Rule for beef, lamb, pork, perishable agricultural commodities, and peanuts. With regard to the latter rule, USDA proposed to finalize it by applying the concepts used in the seafood rule to the remaining COOL commodities.

The 2002 Farm Bill and the 2008 Farm Bill amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require that retailers inform consumers of the country of origin of all perishable agricultural commodities beginning September 30, 2008. In March 2009, USDA published its final rule on COOL. The marking requirements contained in Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930 continue to be enforced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Country of Origin LabelingU.S. Department of Agriculture
7/29/2008 - Press ReleaseUSDA Takes on Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling
Hogan & Hartson Memo - December 4, 2008RE: Canada Files Complaint Against COOL
Letter to AFFI members - August 19, 2008RE: Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for Perishable Agricultural Commodities – Comparison of USDA and CBP Rules
AFFI Comments to USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service - August 20, 2007RE: Proposed Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling
Memo to AFFI Committees - July 31, 2007RE: Recent USDA and Congressional Actions regarding Country of Origin Labeling
Memo to AFFI Members - October 22, 2006RE: Country of Origin Labeling Refresher
AFFI Letter to USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service - January 7, 2005RE: Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling of Fish and Shellfish
Hogan & Hartson Memo - October 5, 2004RE: Seafood Country of Origin Labeling Rule
AFFI Letter to Under Secretary Bill Hawks, Marketing and Regulatory Programs, USDA - February 24, 2004RE: Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling of Beef, Lamb, Pork, Fish, Perishable Agricultural Commodities, and Peanuts
Industry Coalition Letter to Under Secretary Bill Hawks, Marketing and Regulatory Programs, USDA - February 24, 2004RE: Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling of Beef, Lamb, Pork, Fish, Perishable Agricultural Commodities, and Peanuts
Industry Coalition Letter to Under Secretary Bill Hawks, Marketing and Regulatory Programs, USDA - April 9, 2003RE: COOL Regulations under the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002
AFFI White Paper - February 20, 2003RE: "Bill of Unintended Consequences: How a New Country of Origin Marking Regulation Would Harm American Food and Agriculture"
Hogan & Hartson Memo - November 5, 2002RE: USDA Guidelines Implementing COOL Provisions in the 2002 Farm Bill