USDA today issued Interim Voluntary Country of Origin Labeling guidelines for certain commodities as required in the 2002 Farm Bill.

“Under the guidelines, fresh and frozen muscle cuts of beef, veal, lamb, pork, fish, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and peanuts may be labeled at retail to indicate their country of origin,” says Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator A.J. Yates. “These guidelines provide uniform criteria for participating retailers.”

Food service establishments, such as restaurants, lunchrooms, cafeterias, food stands, bars, lounges or similar enterprises selling prepared food to the public, are not covered.

Under the guidelines, a retailer can label a covered commodity with “United States Country of Origin” if certain criteria are met. Covered commodities for lamb and pork must be derived exclusively from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States. For beef, the covered commodities must be derived exclusively from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States, including animals that were born and raised in Alaska or Hawaii and transported for a period not to exceed 60 days through Canada to the United States and slaughtered in the United States.

The guidelines also provide guidance for products of mixed origin including products produced both in foreign markets and in the United States as well as labeling for blended or mixed products.

USDA is required by the 2002 Farm Bill to promulgate a regulation for mandatory country of origin labeling by Sept. 30, 2004. Development of this mandatory regulation will begin in April 2003 and will likely be based on these voluntary guidelines as well as related input. Submissions on the utility of the voluntary guidelines are encouraged during the next 180 days.

Source: USDA