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COOL Food Standards

September 30, 2008

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COOL Food Labeling

COOL is the new word in food labelling.

Beginning October 1, 2008, labels of food sold in American markets will have to include the country from which the food came. This is called Country-of-Origin Labelling (COOL).

It's not all foods, though. On the list of foods required to include the COOL are these:

  • raw beef, veal, lamb, pork, chicken, goat,
  • wild fish and shellfish, farm-raised fish and shellfish
  • fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
  • peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts
  • whole ginseng.

Butcher shops and fish markets are exempt.

All of these foods are labelled in different ways, and the COOL information will appear in different ways as well. If the food doesn't normally include packaging, the store must post a sign displaying the country of origin.

Some fresh food already contains such information, such as fruit labelled "Fresh from Florida."

Other fresh food will contain labels listing more than one country of origin.

And the law doesn't apply to processed foods. This is a key distinction. Here are some examples of this:

  • Raw pork chops are labelled (because they are raw), but breaded pork chops are not labelled (because they are processed)
  • Fresh or frozen vegetables are labelled, but canned vegetables are not
  • Raw nuts get labels, but trail mix that contains nuts don't get labels.

Some processed foods already have COOL labels and will continue to do so. Many countries that export food to the U.S. require such labels.

This is not a new idea. A law mandating COOL labels was first passed in 2002, but lobbying by members of the agriculture and meatpacking industries delayed implementation.

Although the law goes into effect on October 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture won't begin fining food sellers until spring 2009 at the earliest. The maximum fine is $1,000.

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday

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