Sept. 30, 2008 -- Starting today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will require retailers to display the country of origin for a wide variety of foods, including:
- Wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish
- Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables
- Macadamia nuts
If you eat fish and shellfish, you've probably already seen country-of-origin labels at the seafood counter. Now, similar country-of-origin labels will be seen for other foods.
There are some exceptions. Processed foods (including meatballs, sausage, and tomato sauce) aren't covered by the new rule. Nor are products that mix several items (such as a fruit cup containing several types of fruit, salad mix containing lettuce and a packet of salad dressing, or a bag of frozen peas mixed with carrots), and roasted peanuts.
The new country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) rule doesn't apply to restaurants or to foods produced or packaged before today's date. And the label includes the country where the foods came from -- not states or regions within those countries.
The USDA plans to spend the next six months educating retailers about the COOL rule, which has been in the works since 2002.