COOL labeling is law but has caveats
October 03, 2008
The new country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law has gone into effect on September 30, 2008, but food packages produced before this date may not be labeled and retail establishments selling less than $230,000 worth of fresh and frozen food are exempt from it. The law was supported by domestic farmers and ranchers who thought consumers would prefer meat produced in the US.

The foods that are covered by the law include beef, pork, chicken, lamb, goat, some nuts and fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Fish and shellfish have carried the labels since 2005.

"The country of origin can be identified on the actual package of food such as the food label that shows weight and price for meat," according to Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension. "It can be a sticker on the package or on the actual fruit or vegetable. In other cases such as fresh fruit it can be a sign with the fruit that identifies the country of origin."

There are other loopholes too. Processed and cooked foods are exempt from the law. A food is considered to be "processed" if it is combined with just one other ingredient like "peas and carrots." Breaded chicken, chocolate covered strawberries,roasted peanuts, and certain salted pecans and macadamia nuts.

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