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Consumer Questions and Answers on Country of Origin Labeling  
What is Country of Origin Labeling?

Country of Origin Labeling (aka “COOL”) is a law requiring certain food retailers (supermarkets and grocery stores) to provide additional information (country of origin information) to consumers on specific food items at the point of purchase.

What kinds of food stores are required to label for COOL?

Retailers that are PACA (Perishable Agricultural Marketing Act of 1930) licensees are required to comply with COOL requirements. Most full line grocery stores meet this requirement.

Are places like fish markets and butcher shops required to provide COOL information?

No. Retailers that do not sell fruits and vegetables (e.g., fish markets and butcher shops) are not required to provide COOL information. In general, only full line grocers are required to provide COOL information.

What items can I expect to see required COOL information on?

--Covered commodities include the following:
--Muscle cuts of beef (including veal), lamb, --pork, chicken, and goat
--Ground beef (including veal), lamb, pork, chicken, and goat
--Fish and Shellfish (wild and farm-raised)
--Perishable agricultural commodities (fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables)
--Peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts

Should turkey be labeled with the country of origin in the grocery store?

No, chicken is the only poultry product required to be labeled with COOL information.

Why are processed foods excluded from COOL requirements?

The definition of a processed food item developed for the rule has taken into account comments from affected entities and has resulted in excluding products that would be more costly and troublesome for retailers and suppliers to provide country of origin information.

“Country of Origin” Labeling is singular. Why have I observed an individually packaged steak have 3 countries (e.g., U.S., Canada, and Mexico) listed on the label?

COOL for covered meat commodities must take into account all the production steps (born, raised, and slaughtered) for animals that the meat is derived from. Many animals are exclusively, born raised and slaughtered in the United States and may be labeled with “Product of US.” Other animals may have been born in another country and ultimately, raised and slaughtered in the United States. In this case, a multiple country designation must be declared (e.g., US and Mexico; US and Canada). In still other cases, if animals that were born in Mexico and others born in Canada were commingled through the raising or slaughter process, all possible combinations of countries must be accounted for when the meat is processed. Under this scenario, the resulting product would be labeled as “Product of US, Canada and Mexico.”

Why does the United States import animals from other countries?

Like many other industries, the livestock sector looks to the economics of supply in determining where to obtain needed inputs. The close proximity of Canada and Mexico allows for these types of transactions to be economically viable.

How do we know that animals imported into the United States are safe?

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Food and Drug Administration, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) all have stringent regulations to insure the health and safety of animals and food products entering the United States meet the same requirements as those produced in the US.

Where can I find information about COOL?

The COOL web site: provides an abundance of information including the regulations, various guidance documents, and brochures.

If I have a complaint about how things are labeled in my grocery store where can I send my complaint?


Mailing Address:
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Room 2607-S, Stop 025
Washington, DC 20250-0254

See Also
  Main COOL Webpage  
  Last Modified Date: 02/24/2009