America Gets a Little Bit COOLer

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!

About Dara O'Rourke

Associate Professor at UC Berkeley and Co-Founder of GoodGuide.
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8 Responses to America Gets a Little Bit COOLer

  1. David Rosen says:

    Congratulations for getting this going! I’d love to see information on packaging added. There’s certainly been some indications that some types of plastics contain harmful components. What about all the various plastics that we’ve heard nothing much about? Are they safe? Is there really data to is credible on this?

  2. Ben says:

    I’d love to see some thumbnails of new COOL labels.
    Dara, can you add link from this article to a public Flickr site or something?

  3. Linda Hughes says:

    What about the meat that McDonalds buys from Brazil? Is it clean and government inspected?

  4. jennie flash says:

    What about the plastic we use to freeze Ice cubes or the plastic in baggies we use and freeze. I have heard plastic in microwave and frezzing causes cancer. what about microwaveing bags of veggies?? I was sooooo happy to find people like you that care!!!
    We need to know what is going in our bodies!!


  5. mike barnes says:

    They advertise organic, but how do we know for sure?
    Easy to say

  6. Sofia Voelkel says:

    Thank you for the info and your website. I believe we should make it into a law to require the food manufacturers to disclose where their ingredients are from when inquired by consumers. All food manufacturers should have a inquiry hot line or website window for consumers to get update information about the origins of ingredients. How do we get such a law enacted?

  7. Rhonda H. says:

    Letting government get ever more involved in private business practices gets to be a slippery slope very quickly. In particular, the tracking and labeling of animal products. For the past several years the National Animal Identification System has been forced down the throats of animal owners through a variety of dubious means, not the least of which is a fairly common USDA tactic of "redefining" common words. For instance, this is touted as a voluntary program. Did you know that "voluntary" does not necessarily mean that you volunteered for it, consented to it, or even know you are involved!? I’m all for food safety, and this website is a fantastic idea, but when a regulation (not a law, those have to be voted on, and NAIS was not) literally states that all animals (not just market bound meat animals) have to have a special microchip implanted and every move that animal makes must be reported to the government ~ including every time a kid rides a pony off his "premises" ~ the visions of 1984 are just too vivid.

  8. Edward DiMaio says:

    What about Irradiation?

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