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USDA Delays Enforcement of Country-of-Origin Laws at Stores

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is easing country-of-origin requirements to allow fresh produce that has been packed for foodservice operators to be diverted to retailers as demand shifts during the pandemic.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is “exercising enforcement discretion” for COOL requirements, which cover fresh and frozen produce, meat, fish and some nuts. The COOL regulations don’t cover items packed for the foodservice channel, but with heightened demand because dine-in foodservice isn’t available, many foodservice operators are looking for new outlets.

Starting on April 20, the USDA’s AMS won’t enforce COOL regulations for produce and other items sold at grocery stores for 60 days, unless the produce makes country of origin or method of production claims, according to a news release.

“By allowing this labeling flexibility, food can be diverted from restaurants to retail, ensuring that this food is made available to families around the country and helping restaurants and their suppliers access additional markets, such as grocery stores, that are currently experiencing greater demand,” according to the release.

The Food and Drug Administration and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which covers meat and related COOL enforcement, have already made similar changes, according to the release.

To see what other steps the government is taking during the pandemic, see The Packer's COVID-19 landing page.

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