On March 16, 2009, the US government will finally begin enforcing Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meats, fruits, vegetables, and some raw nuts. This comes almost seven years – and a lot of industry lobbying – since Congress originally passed the COOL law in 2002.
With this required disclosure, grocery store shoppers can finally know the country of origin of their beef, pork, lamb, chicken, goat, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, raw peanuts, pecans, ginseng, and macadamia nuts. Labeling for seafood went into effect in 2006.
Unfortunately, COOL only covers unprocessed foods. So while fresh peanuts must be labeled, roasted peanuts and peanut butter are not. A bag of frozen peas is covered, but a bag with a mix of peas and carrots is not (this is considered processed). Cooked shrimp? You guessed it, not covered. In fact, cooked meats such as bacon, cured ham, and almost any products with more than one ingredient are exempt from disclosing their country of origin.
Despite these gaps in what COOL covers, we still consider it a big step towards greater transparency in the marketplace.
Enjoy the exciting new tour of countries of the world in your grocery store!