On Thursday, May 23, the USDA published the final rule amending the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations in the Federal Register. A pdf version of the final rule is available here.
COOL was originally enacted in the 2002 Farm Bill and required retailers to notify customers of the country of origin of covered commodities. Covered commodities include muscle cuts of beef, lamb, chicken, goat, and pork, as well as ground beef, ground lamb, ground chicken, ground goat, ground pork, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, perishable agricultural commodities, macadamia nuts, pecans, ginseng, and peanuts.
This rule comes in response to a WTO case initiated last year by Mexico and Canada, in which they alleged that the previous COOL requirements were not consistent with US obligations under WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.
USDA made changes to the labeling provisions for muscle cut covered commodities, requiring specification of where the product was born, raised, and slaughtered, including separate specifications in cases where the animal resided in two or more countries during its lifetime. The rule also disallows mixing together muscle cut covered commodities from different countries of origin. Requirements do not apply to commodities produced or packaged prior to May 23, 2013.
This final rule also updated the definition of retailer to include anyone who qualifies as a retailer under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) of 1930. This harmonizes the definition of retailer under COOL with PACA regulations.