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Questions Surrounding COOL Still Unanswered

by 5m Editor
15 December 2008, at 10:08a.m.

CANADA - The US-based Food Marketing Institute reports several key questions surrounding Country of Origin Labelling remain unanswered, writes Bruce Cochrane.

US Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling came into effect September 30th.

Food Marketing Institute chief legal officer Deborah White says retailers are working with their suppliers and implementing the necessary in-store programs to ensure compliance but there is still considerable uncertainty.

Deborah White-Food Marketing Institute

Part of the uncertainties stem from the fact that this was an interim final rule when we spoke last and, unfortunately but not terribly surprisingly, it still is an interim final rule so there are some questions and concerns about what the actual requirements are going to be at the end of the day.

At this point we understand that the rule is moving through our regulatory process which is a little complex and we're hoping that a final rule will be issued very soon so that we will all have the clarification that we need.

I think some of the big questions outstanding for retailers have to do with things like the record keeping requirements, whether or not they're going to have to keep things separate in their warehouses by country of origin.

So some of the operational issues are still unclear in terms of what the retail distribution industry needs to do.

We do know that USDA is in the process of building their enforcement infrastructure and they've indicated that they plan to go out and start inspections sometime in April of 2009 so, depending on how many changes there are in the final rule, will indicate what the challenges will be in terms of making sure that everybody is in compliance by the time the six month education and outreach period expires.


White says, while there was a spike of questions right around the September 30th implementation date, retailers report overall consumer interest has been low and there have been few questions or concerns.