|Script: Country of Origin Labeling (COOL)
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Food Safety at home podcast
series. These podcasts were designed with you in mind - the consumer - who purchases and
prepares meat, poultry and processed meat, egg products for your family and friends.
Each episode will bring you a different food safety topic ranging from safe storage, handling,
and preparation of meat, poultry and processed egg products to the importance of keeping foods
safe during a power outage.
So sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.
Welcome to “Food Safety at Home.” This is Kathy Bernard with the Food Safety and Inspection Service.
I’m your host for this segment.
With me today is Julie Lewis, Country of Origin Labeling Marketing Specialist with USDA’s Agricultural
Marketing Service. Julie is joined by Marjorie Davidson, Education Team Leader at the Food and
Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Hello, Marjorie and Julie, welcome to the show.
Thank you Kathy, we’re pleased to be here.
Marjorie and Julie have joined us today to talk about the new country-of-origin labeling, or “COOL”
labeling requirements for meat, some poultry products, and other food items. Julie, can you start
off by giving us some background on the new requirements?
Sure, Kathy. On March 16, 2009, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service put into effect
final regulation that require certain meat and poultry products, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables,
certain types of nuts and other products to be labeled at retail to identify their country of
origin. The purpose of this regulation is to provide consumers with information about the source
of specific food.
Are all grocery stores and restaurants required to label products with COOL information?
Most grocery stores and supermarkets are required to provide COOL information. This also
includes warehouse club stores. Food service establishments, such as restaurants, cafeterias,
and food stands, are exempt from these requirements.
There certainly is a broad range of products to be labeled. What types of meat, for example, must
bear the country of origin labels?
Meat products requiring labels include muscle cuts and ground beef and veal, pork, lamb,
goat, and chicken.
Would any of these products ever be excluded from COOL?
Guest (Julie): Processed food products are excluded from COOL labeling requirements.
That means any product that has undergone further processing to change its character– by cooking,
curing, or smoking, for example.
It also means products that have been combined with another food component, such as breaded veal
filet and chicken tenders.
What about food products purchased on the Web?
For products purchased over the Internet, the retailer may provide country of origin
information on its internet site or upon delivery to the customer.
What about fish and shellfish? Haven’t those products been labeled with country of origin for
quite some time?
Fish and shellfish have been under a mandatory labeling program since 2005, Kathy. They
also have to be labeled according to method of production – such as wild or farm-raised. The new
final country of origin labeling regulation combines the labeling requirements for all covered
Are package labels the only place consumers should be looking for COOL information?
No, in addition to product labels, COOL information may appear at point-of-sale on placards,
stickers, bands, twist ties, pin tags or other clearly visible signage, on displays, or holding
bins. Declarations must be placed in a conspicuous location where they are likely to be readily
understood by customers under normal conditions of purchase.
What about labels showing the same product being sourced from several countries? Can you provide
some examples of those situations, Julie?
Well, Kathy, take ground beef, for example. The declaration for ground beef shall list
all countries of origin from which raw product was used to produce the ground product. If a package
of ground beef contains commingled product from the United States, Mexico, Canada, and New Zealand,
the label may read, “Product of the United States, Mexico, Canada and New Zealand.”
In cases where meat products, such as pork, are derived from hogs born in another country, say
Canada, but imported into the United States for raising and slaughter, the label may read, “Product
of the United States and Canada.”
What are the conditions by which a product can be exclusively labeled, “Product of the United
Let’s use the ground beef example again. If the product is derived from animals born,
raised, and slaughtered exclusively in this country, then it can be labeled, “Product of the United
Julie, who will be making sure that products are properly labeled?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for ensuring that retailers comply with country
of origin labeling requirements.
If I have a question about country of origin labeling, where should I send it?
Send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s email@example.com or call 202-720-4486. Or send a fax to:
Thanks, Julie. You can learn more about country of origin labeling by visiting the AMS Web site
at www.ams.usda.gov/cool. Online help is available
from the USDA’s virtual food safety representative “Ask Karen” at
For food safety questions about meat and poultry products, call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline
at 1-888-MPHotline. That’s 1-888-674-6854. For questions about all other food products, call the
Food and Drug Administration’s Hotline at 1-888-Safe Food. That’s 1-888-723-3366.
Well, that’s it for this week. We’ve been talking to Julie Lewis from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing
Service, and Marjorie Davidson, from the Food and Drug Administration.
Thank you both so much for your helpful information on country of origin labeling. I’m Kathy Bernard
and I’d like to thank you for joining us for this episode of “Food Safety at Home.” And remember,
“Be Food Safe.”
Well, that's all for this time. Thanks for joining us today for another episode of food safety
For answers to your food safety questions call USDA's toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline.
You can also get answers to food safety questions online from our virtual representative "Ask
Karen" at askkaren.gov .
Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending your comments to
Thanks for tuning in.
Last Modified: September 9, 2009