Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the final rule for the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program will go into effect as scheduled on March 16. The rule, published in the Federal Register on Jan. 15, 2009, has been under regulatory review by the U.S. Department of Agriculture pursuant to a Jan. 20, 2009, memorandum from the new administration.
Vilsack also issued a letter asking stakeholders to voluntarily follow additional labeling practices. He asked processors to go beyond the current guidelines in defining on labels where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered; use COOL on processed products that are cured, smoke, broiled, grilled or steamed; and to limit the gap between when a product from a country was not present in a processor's inventory and when labels are changed to reflect that to 10 days instead of the 60 days allowed by law.
During the regulatory review process, Vilsack determined that allowing the rule to go into effect and carefully monitoring implementation and compliance by retailers and their suppliers would provide the best avenue to evaluate the program.