Getting Hip to COOL
Beginning next week, you may notice more labels at the meat counter and in the produce aisle of your neighborhood supermarket.
As of Sept. 30, the federally mandated Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law will go into effect at supermarkets nationwide. The COOL requirements for beef, lamb, pork, seafood, produce and peanuts have been on the books since 2002 as part of that year’s Farm Bill; however, implementation has been painfully gradual, rolling out with seafood labels in 2004.
The list of COOL-required categories has since expanded; as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, the rules now apply to chicken, goat, macadamia nuts, pecans and ginseng.
With COOL, shoppers will now know, for example, if a head of garlic was grown in California or in China, which has earned a grisly reputation for exporting tainted food. (Remember last year’s pet food nightmare?)
It should also help eliminate some of the guesswork that’s plagued recent food safety scares here at home, including this summer’s salmonella outbreak, originally thought to have been caused by tomatoes but instead was caused by two kinds of peppers from Mexico.
And for those interested in the distance that food travels, you’ll be able to distinguish Florida oranges from those grown in Israel or South Africa, for example.
Cushioned among the various COOL categories, however, are a handful of exemptions worth studying; the requirements apply to retail stores with annual produce purchases of at least $230,000, which would likely exclude small butcher shops and fish markets. The law also excludes each category’s processed counterpart, i.e. peanut butter, bagged salad mixes, smoked salmon, breaded chicken tenders and marinated pork tenderloins. In the frozen section, single-item bags of fruit and vegetables fall under COOL, but if they’re part of a medley, COOL does not apply.
Let us know whether or not you lose your COOL.
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