Seafood: COOL! (Country of Origin Labeling)


Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is a labeling law that requires retailers, such as full-line grocery stores, supermarkets and club warehouse stores, to notify their customers with information regarding the source of certain foods. Food products covered by the law include muscle cut and ground meats: lamb, goat, and chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts; and ginseng.

Labeling Covered Commodities of United States Origin

The August 1, 2008, interim final rule contained an express provision allowing U.S. origin covered commodities to be further processed or handled in a foreign country and retain their U.S. origin. The Agency received numerous comments requesting further clarification of this provision as well as comments requesting that it be deleted. Accordingly, under this final rule, this provision has been deleted. To the extent that it is allowed under existing Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulations, U.S. origin covered commodities may still be eligible to bear a U.S. origin declaration if they are processed in another country such that a substantial transformation (as determined by CBP) does not occur. In addition, to the extent that additional information about the production steps that occurred in the U.S. is permitted under existing Federal regulations (e.g., CBP, FSIS), nothing in this final rule precludes such information from being included. A full explanation of this change is discussed in the Comments and Responses section.

Highlights of This Final Rule
Covered Commodities

As defined in the statute, the term “covered commodity” includes: Muscle cuts of beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and goat; ground beef, ground lamb, ground pork, ground chicken, and ground goat; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; perishable agricultural commodities (fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables); peanuts; pecans; ginseng; and macadamia nuts.
Exemption for Food Service Establishments

Under the statute and therefore this final rule, food service establishments are exempt from COOL labeling requirements. Food service establishments are restaurants, cafeterias, lunch rooms, food stands, saloons, taverns, bars, lounges, or other similar facilities operated as an enterprise engaged in the business of selling food to the public. Similar food service facilities include salad bars, delicatessens, meal preparation stations in which the retailer sets out ingredients for different meals and consumers assemble the ingredients into meals to take home, and other food enterprises located within retail establishments that provide ready-to-eat foods that are consumed either on or outside of the retailer’s premises.
Exclusion for Ingredient in a Processed Food Item

Items are excluded from labeling under this regulation when a covered commodity is an ingredient in a processed food item. Under this final rule, a “processed food item” is defined as: A retail item derived from a covered commodity that has undergone specific processing resulting in a change in the character of the covered commodity, or that has been combined with at least one other covered commodity or other substantive food component (e.g., chocolate, breading, tomato sauce), except that the addition of a component (such as water, salt, or sugar) that enhances or represents a further step in the preparation of the product for consumption, would not in itself result in a processed food item. Specific processing that results in a change in the character of the covered commodity includes cooking (e.g., frying, broiling, grilling, boiling, steaming, baking, roasting), curing (e.g., salt curing, sugar curing, drying), smoking (cold or hot), and restructuring (e.g., emulsifying and extruding).

With regard to determining what is considered an “other covered commodity” with respect to fruits and vegetables, the Agency will generally rely on U.S. Grade Standards for fruits and vegetables to make the distinction of whether or not the retail item is a combination of “other covered commodities”. For example, different colored sweet peppers combined in a package will require country of origin notification because there is one U.S. Grade Standard for sweet peppers, regardless of the color. As another example, there are separate U.S. Grade Standards for iceberg lettuce and romaine lettuce. Therefore, this type of salad mix will not be required to be labeled with country of origin information. While the Agency previously used this example in the preamble of the August 1, 2008, interim final rule and concluded that such a salad mix would be subject to COOL, the Agency now believes the use of U.S. Grade Standards in determining when a perishable retail item is considered a processed food item provides a bright line to the industry and is an easy and straightforward approach as regulated entities are already familiar with U.S. Grade Standards.

There are limited exceptions to this policy. One exception occurs when there are different grade standards for the same commodity based on the region of production. For example, although there are separate grade standards for oranges from Florida, Texas, and California/Arizona, combining oranges from these different regions would not be considered combining “other covered commodities” and therefore, a container with oranges from Texas and Florida is required to be labeled with country of origin information.

As examples of processing steps that are considered to further prepare product for consumption, meat products that have been needle-tenderized or chemically tenderized using papain or other similar additive are not considered processed food items. Likewise, meat products that have been injected with sodium phosphate or other similar solution are also not considered processed food items as the solution has not changed the character of the covered commodity. In contrast, meat products that have been marinated with a particular flavor such as lemon-pepper, Cajun, etc. have been changed in character and thus are considered processed food items.

While the definition of a processed food item does exclude a number of products from labeling under the COOL program, many imported items are still required to be marked with country of origin information under the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1304) (Tariff Act). For example, while a bag of frozen peas and carrots is considered a processed food item under this final rule, if the peas and carrots are of foreign origin, the Tariff Act requires that the country of origin information be marked on the bag. Likewise, while roasted peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts are also considered processed food items under this final rule, under the Tariff Act, if the nuts are of foreign origin, the country of origin information must be indicated to the ultimate purchaser. This also holds true for a variety of fish and shellfish items. For example, salmon imported from Chile that is smoked in the United States as well as shrimp imported from Thailand that is cooked in the United States are also required to be labeled with country of origin information under the Tariff Act. In addition, items such as marinated lamb loins that are imported in consumer-ready packages would also be required to be labeled with country of origin information as both CBP and FSIS regulations require meat that is imported in consumer-ready packages to be labeled with origin information on the package.

Examples of items excluded from country of origin labeling include teriyaki flavored pork loin, meatloaf, roasted peanuts, breaded chicken tenders, breaded fish sticks, flank steak with portabella stuffing, steakhouse sirloin kabobs with vegetables, cooked and smoked meats, blue cheese angus burgers, cured hams, bacon, corned beef briskets, prosciutto rolled in mozzarella cheese, a salad that contains iceberg and romaine lettuce, a fruit cup that contains cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew, mixed vegetables, and a salad mix that contains lettuce and carrots and/or salad dressing.
Labeling Covered Commodities of United States Origin

The law prescribes specific criteria that must be met for a covered commodity to bear a “United States country of origin” declaration. Therefore, covered commodities may be labeled as having a United States origin if the following specific requirements are met:

(a) Beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and goat—covered commodities must be derived from animals exclusively born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States; from animals born and raised in Alaska or Hawaii and transported for a period of time not more than 60 days through Canada to the United States and slaughtered in the United States; or from animals present in the United States on or before July 15, 2008, and once present in the United States, remained continuously in the United States.

(b) Perishable agricultural commodities, peanuts, pecans, ginseng, and macadamia nuts—covered commodities must be from products exclusively produced in the United States.

(c) Farm-raised fish and shellfish—covered commodities must be derived exclusively from fish or shellfish hatched, raised, harvested, and processed in the United States, and that has not undergone a substantial transformation (as established by CBP) outside of the United States.

(d) Wild fish and shellfish—covered commodities must be derived exclusively from fish or shellfish either harvested in the waters of the United States or by a U.S. flagged vessel and processed in the United States or aboard a U.S. flagged vessel, and that has not undergone a substantial transformation (as established by CBP) outside of the United States.
Labeling Country of Origin for Imported Products

Under this final rule, a fish or shellfish imported covered commodity shall retain its origin as declared to CBP at the time the product enters the United States, through retail sale, provided it has not undergone a substantial transformation (as established by CBP) in the United States. Similarly, for the other covered commodities, an imported covered commodity for which origin has already been established as defined by the Act (e.g., born, raised, slaughtered or harvested) and for which no production steps have occurred in the United States shall retain its origin as declared to CBP at the time the product enters the United States, through retail sale.

Covered commodities imported in consumer-ready packages are currently required to bear a country of origin declaration on each individual package under the Tariff Act. This final rule does not change these requirements.
Labeling Fish and Shellfish Imported Products That Have Been Substantially Transformed in the United States

Under this final rule, in the case of wild fish and shellfish, if a covered commodity was imported from country X and substantially transformed (as established by CBP) in the United States or aboard a U.S. flagged vessel, the product shall be labeled at retail as “From [country X], processed in the United States.” Alternatively, the product may be labeled as “Product of country X and the United States”. The covered commodity must also be labeled to indicate that it was derived from wild fish or shellfish.

In the case of farm-raised fish, if a covered commodity was imported from country X at any stage of production and substantially transformed (as established by CBP) in the United States, the product shall be labeled at retail as “From [country X], processed in the United States.” Alternatively, the product may be labeled as “Product of country X and the United States”. The covered commodity shall also be labeled to indicate that it was derived from farm-raised fish or shellfish.
Labeling Muscle Cut Covered Commodities of Multiple Countries of Origin (That Includes the United States)

Under this final rule, for muscle cut covered commodities derived from animals that were born in Country X or (as applicable) Country Y, raised and slaughtered in the United States, and were not derived from animals imported for immediate slaughter as defined in § 65.180, the origin may be designated, for example, as Product of the U.S., County X, and (as applicable) Country Y. The countries of origin may be listed in any order.

For muscle cut covered commodities derived from animals born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S. that are commingled during a production day with muscle cut covered commodities derived from animals that were raised and slaughtered in the United States, and were not derived from animals imported for immediate slaughter as defined in § 65.180, the origin may be designated as, for example, Product of the United States, Country X, and (as applicable) Country Y. The countries of origin may be listed in any order.

If an animal was imported into the United States for immediate slaughter as defined in § 65.180, the origin of the resulting meat products derived from that animal shall be designated as Product of Country X and the United States.

For muscle cut covered commodities derived from animals that are born in Country X or Country Y, raised and slaughtered in the United States, that are commingled during a production day with muscle cut covered commodities that are derived from animals that are imported into the United States for immediate slaughter as defined in § 65.180, the origin may be designated as Product of the United States, Country X, and (as applicable) Country Y. The countries of origin may be listed in any order.

In all cases above, the origin declaration may include more specific information related to production steps provided records to substantiate the claims are maintained and the claim is consistent with other applicable Federal legal requirements. In addition, if animals are raised in another country and the United States, provided the animals are not imported for immediate slaughter as defined in § 65.180, the raising that occurs in the United States takes precedence over the minimal raising that occurred in the animal’s country of birth.

With regard to the commingling of meat of different origin categories, the Agency has received comments requesting that the Agency provide additional clarification on how commingled meat products can be labeled. Under this final rule, it is permissible to commingle meat derived from animals imported for immediate slaughter with meat derived from mixed origin animals and label it as Product of U.S., Canada. It is also permissible to commingle meat derived from animals imported for immediate slaughter with meat of mixed origin and label it as category C (product imported for immediate slaughter, i.e., Product of Canada, U.S.). Further, the declaration for meat derived from mixed origin animals may list the countries of origin in any order (e.g., Product of U.S., Canada or Product of Canada, U.S.).
Labeling Commingled Covered Commodities

In this final rule, a commingled covered commodity is defined as a single type of covered commodity (e.g., frozen peas, shrimp), presented for retail sale in a consumer package, that has been prepared from raw material sources having different origins. Further, a commingled covered commodity does not include meat products. If the retail product contains two different types of covered commodities (e.g., peas and carrots), it is considered a processed food item and is not subject to mandatory COOL.

In the case of perishable agricultural commodities, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, peanuts, pecans, ginseng, and macadamia nuts, for imported covered commodities that have not subsequently been substantially transformed in the United States that are commingled with commodities having different origins, the declaration shall indicate the countries of origin for all covered commodities in accordance with CBP marking regulations (19 CFR part 134). For example, a bag of frozen peas that were sourced from France and India is currently required under CBP regulations to be marked with that origin information on the package.

In the case of wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish covered commodities, when the retail product contains imported covered commodities that have subsequently undergone substantial transformation in the United States are commingled with other imported covered commodities that have subsequently undergone substantial transformation in the United States (either prior to or following substantial transformation in the United States) and/or U.S. origin covered commodities, the declaration shall indicate the countries of origin contained therein or that may be contained therein.

To read the full regulations:

https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=AMS-LS-07-0081-0815

https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/cool

An Interesting Article to Read: https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2016/12/5/tale-fish-two-countries

 

Posted in 10+2, ACE, China, containers, country of orgin, customs, customs food, cuttlefish, dairy, duties, fda, Fish and Wildlife, Fish and Wildlife fees, Food & Drug, free trade, freight, fsis, FSVP, importer responsibility, india, indian shrimp, international import export, labeling, port of long beach, port of los angeles, port of oakland, ports, prior notice, produce, rice, seafood, shrimp, squid, terminals, trade, tuna, usda, west coast Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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