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USDA issues final rule on mandatory COOL

The United States Department of Agriculture has announced details of the final regulation for the mandatory country of origin labelling (COOL) programme required by the 2002 and 2008 farm bills.

The full text of the final rule will be published in the Jan. 15, 2009 Federal Register. The rule becomes effective on March 16, 2009, 60 days after the date of publication.

The rule covers muscle cuts and ground beef, lamb, chicken, goat and pork; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; perishable agricultural commodities (specifically fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables); macadamia nuts; pecans; ginseng and peanuts.

Commodities covered under COOL must be labelled at retail to indicate its country of origin. For fish and shellfish, the method of production -- wild or farm-raised, -- must be specified. Commodities are excluded from mandatory COOL if the commodity is an ingredient in a processed food item. The definition of a processed food item remains unchanged from the Aug. 1, 2008, interim final rule.

The final rule outlines the requirements for labelling covered commodities and the recordkeeping requirements for retailers and suppliers. The law provides for penalties of up to $1,000 per violation for both retailers and suppliers not complying with the law.

The rule prescribes specific criteria that must be met for a covered commodity to bear a "United States country of origin" declaration. In addition, the rule also contains provisions for labelling covered commodities of foreign origin, meat products from multiple origins, ground meat products, as well as commingled covered commodities.

Copies of the final rule and additional information are on display online here.

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