Interim Final Country-of-Origin Rule Released

US - USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) yesterday put on public display an interim final rule regarding mandatory country-of-origin labeling of meat products. The new requirements take effect September 30, 2008.
calendar icon 30 July 2008
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The rule, which likely will publish in the August 1 Federal Register, reflects changes to the original statute that were included in the 2008 farm bill. The rule covers meat products including muscle cuts of beef, veal, lamb, chicken, goat and pork, as well as ground beef, ground pork, ground lamb, ground chicken and ground goat. Processed meat and poultry products like lunch meat, meatballs or marinated pork loin, as well as meat and poultry sold at foodservice, are exempt from labeling.

When labeling ground beef, ground pork, ground lamb, ground goat and ground chicken, the rule allows labels to declare the countries from which the meat may reasonably have originated. In defining “reasonable,” the rule provides that when a raw material from a specific origin is not in a processor's inventory for more than 60 days, that country shall no longer be included as a possible country-of-origin.

The rule also indicates that records must be kept for a year and must be produced within five days if requested by a USDA official. Slaughter establishments are an initiating supplier of country-of-origin information and must possess or have legal access to records that substantiate their origin claims. A producer affidavit can be sufficient evidence of an animal’s origin if the affidavit is provided by someone with first-hand knowledge of that origin and if it identifies the animals unique to the transaction. The rule provides that if animals are part of the National Animal Identification System, the official ear tag or accompanying animal markings can be used to support country-of-origin claims.

AMS estimates first-year implementation costs for directly affected firms to be $2.5 billion, with costs per firm estimated at $376 for producers, $53,948 for intermediaries and $235,551 for retailers.

“Although AMI opposed mandatory country-of-origin labeling when it was under consideration, it is the law and our goal is to help our members comply with these new regulatory requirements,” said AMI Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Mark Dopp. “We are pleased to see the interim final rule publish so that we can work expeditiously to help our members understand precisely what will be required of them by USDA.”

Dopp encouraged members of the industry to attend some of the upcoming country-of-origin compliance workshops that AMI is offering in three cities in partnership with the Food Marketing Institute and the United Fresh Produce Association.

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