Question of the Week
What can you tell me about recordkeeping requirements for livestock producers under the new COOL regulation?
Answer: I am pleased to provide you with information about USDA’s Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program.
The 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin of beef (including veal), lamb, pork, chicken, goat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, perishable agricultural commodities, peanuts, pecans, ginseng, and macadamia nuts. The implementation of mandatory COOL for all covered commodities except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish goes into effect on September 30, 2008.
“Livestock producers are not directly regulated by the COOL interim final rule as livestock are not considered covered commodities. However, only producers have first‐hand knowledge concerning the origin of their animals. Definitive origin information must be provided to slaughter facilities so that meat covered commodities can be accurately labeled at retail. Presumption of origin by packers and other entities in the marketing chain is not permitted. For example, it is not acceptable to assume that if an animal has no ear tag and/or brands identifying that the animal was born and/or raised in Canada or Mexico, the animal is of U.S. origin. The COOL law provides for the use of producer affidavits to provide origin information to packers. Thus, under the interim final rule, USDA will consider a producer affidavit as acceptable evidence on which a packer may rely upon to initiate an origin claim, as long as the affidavit is made by someone having first‐hand knowledge of the origin of the animal(s) and identifies the animal(s) unique to the transaction. Evidence that identifies the animal(s) unique to a transaction can include a tag ID system along with other information such as the type and sex of the animals, number of head involved in the transaction, the date of the transaction, and the name of the buyer.” From LIVESTOCK PRODUCER COMPLIANCE WITH THE COOL INTERIM FINAL RULE
If you are a direct or indirect supplier to licensed retail establishments you would need to follow the recordkeeping requirements listed below. Retailers are required to be licensed when the invoice cost of all purchases of perishable agricultural commodities exceeds $230,000 during a calendar year.
§65.500 Recordkeeping requirements.
(1) All records must be legible and may be maintained in either electronic or hard copy formats. Due to the variation in inventory and accounting documentary systems, various forms of documentation and records will be acceptable.
(2) Upon request by USDA representatives, suppliers and retailers subject to this subpart shall make available to USDA representatives, records maintained in the normal course of business that verify an origin claim. Such records shall be provided within 5 business days of the request and may be maintained in any location.
(b) Responsibilities of Suppliers.
(1) Any person engaged in the business of supplying a covered commodity to a retailer, whether directly or indirectly, must make available information to the buyer about the country(ies) of origin of the covered commodity. This information may be provided either on the product itself, on the master shipping container, or in a document that accompanies the product through retail sale. In addition, the supplier of a covered commodity that is responsible for initiating a country(ies) of origin claim, which in the case of beef, lamb, chicken, goat, and pork is the slaughter facility, must possess or have legal access to records that are necessary to substantiate that claim. For that purpose, in the case of beef, lamb, chicken, goat, and pork, a producer affidavit shall be considered acceptable evidence on which the slaughter facility may rely to initiate the origin claim, provided it is made by someone having first-hand knowledge of the origin of the animal(s) and identifies the animal(s) unique to the transaction. Packers that slaughter animals that are part of a NAIS compliant system or other recognized official identification system (e.g., Canadian official system, Mexico official system) may also rely on the presence of an official ear tag and/or the presence of any accompanying animal markings (i.e., "Can", "M"), as applicable, on which to base their origin claims. This provision also applies to such animals officially identified as a group lot.
(2) Any person engaged in the business of supplying a covered commodity to a retailer, whether directly or indirectly (i.e., including but not limited to growers, distributors, handlers, packers, and processors), must maintain records to establish and identify the immediate previous source (if applicable) and immediate subsequent recipient of a covered commodity for a period of 1 year from the date of the transaction.
(3) For an imported covered commodity (as defined in §65.300(f)), the importer of record as determined by CBP, must ensure that records: provide clear product tracking from the port of entry into the United States to the immediate subsequent recipient and accurately reflect the country of origin of the item as identified in relevant CBP entry documents and information systems; and must maintain such records for a period of 1 year from the date of the transaction.
(c) Responsibilities of Retailers.
(1) Records and other documentary evidence relied upon at the point of sale to establish a covered commodity's country(ies) of origin must be provided to any duly authorized representative of USDA in accordance with §65.500(2), and maintained for a period of 1 year from the date the origin declaration is made at retail. For pre-labeled products, the label itself is sufficient evidence on which the retailer may rely to establish the product's origin.
(2) Records that identify the covered commodity, the retail supplier, and for products that are not pre-labeled, the country of origin information, must be maintained for a period of 1 year from the date the origin declaration is made at retail.
You are exempt from COOL requirements if you are marketing through farmers’ markets, direct to customers, or to restaurants. Check with officials in your state for other COOL requirements.
Agriculture Marketing Specialist
Country of Origin Labeling
Room 2607-S, Stop 0254
1400 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20250-0254
Rosalyn Murphy-Jenkins, Senior Technical Advisor
Labeling and Program Delivery Division
USDA, FSIS, OPPED, LPDD
1400 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20250-3700
COOL Questions and Answers (PDF/75 KB)
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