Enforcement to Begin in November On May 23, 2013, USDA released a final rule which amends the country of origin labeling (COOL) regulations. The final rule has been issued to respond to a ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that COOL is an illegal trade barrier under the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement. The final rule applies label changes to muscle cut products only, not ground product. Produce, seafood and other commodities are not affected. The biggest change retailers and wholesalers will have to contend with is that now all muscle cuts of beef, lamb, chicken, goat and pork currently labeled as “Product of the U.S.” are required to be labeled under the final rule as “Born, Raised, and Slaughtered in the U.S.”
If an animal is born and/or raised in a foreign country or countries, the label must specifically identify the production steps occurring in each country (e.g., Born and Raised in Country X, Slaughtered in the U.S.”). If an animal is raised in the U.S. as well as another country or countries, the raising occurring in the other country or countries may be omitted from the origin designation except if the animal was imported for immediate slaughter or where by doing so the muscle cut would be designated as having a U.S. country of origin (e.g. an animal that is born in the U.S., raised in Mexico and the U.S., and slaughtered in the U.S. cannot be labeled as “Born, Raised, and Slaughtered in the United States”). Labeling requirements for muscle cuts derived from animals slaughtered in another country (e.g. Product of Country X) remain unchanged. Although born, raised and slaughtered information is not required for muscle cuts from animals slaughtered in a foreign country; such information may be voluntarily included on the label.
The regulation is effective immediately, although USDA has stated they will not enforce the new requirements for six months from May 23, 2013. The rule does not apply to items produced or packaged before May 23, 2013.
We expect this regulation to be challenged by the complainants in the COOL case, Canada and Mexico, before the WTO. The rulings of the WTO have no effect on U.S. law or regulation. Only the U.S. Congress, President or courts can delay, amend or eliminate a regulation. FMI is examining all options to respond to the rule. An FMI webinar on the regulation may be found here. A detailed slide deck on the topic may be found here. For more information please contact Erik Lieberman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Examples of COOL Changes Existing Rule for Muscle Cuts (Includes Beef, Lamb, Chicken, Goat and Pork) New Rule for Muscle Cuts Product of United States Born, Raised, and Slaughtered in the United States Product of Australia Product of Australia (unchanged) Product of the U.S., Mexico Born in Mexico, Raised and Slaughtered in the U.S. Product of Mexico, U.S. (Animal imported into U.S. for immediate slaughter) Born and Raised in Mexico, Slaughtered in the U.S. Note: In new rule certain abbreviations are acceptable: Brn, Raisd, Slghtrd. Options: Harvested may be substituted for processed. For poultry hatched may be substituted for born. Acceptable abbreviations (Htchd, Hrvstd).
Disclaimer: This guidance is provided by the Food Marketing Institute as a service to its members and does not constitute legal advice. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case and laws and regulations are frequently changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.