New Final Rule Strengthens USDA Enforcement of COOL Requirements
Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements at 7 CFR Part 60 and 7 CFR Part 65 require retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin of covered commodities, which include muscle cut and ground lamb, goat, and chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts; and ginseng. COOL regulations give retailers a number of options for marking commodities, including via placards, signs, labels, stickers, bands, twist ties, and pin tags. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is responsible for the administration and enforcement of COOL.
On August 9, 2017, USDA published a final rule (82 FR 37171) which extends the current rules of practice under the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, as amended, to include COOL violations. In particular, the final rule authorizes fines for a retailer or person engaged in the business of supplying a covered commodity that willfully violates COOL regulations.
It remains to be seen whether this final rule will lead to heightened surveillance and regulatory activity with respect to COOL compliance.