Now that it’s finally the law, all those involved in fresh produce country-of-origin labeling might as well make the best of it.


U.S. retailers are now being graded on their COOL compliance, as 28 states started the review process, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


USDA began reviewing about 5,000 retail operations for COOL compliance June 1, continuing to Nov. 30, with the help of state agriculture officials.


Whether in compliance or not, most retailers know more than the state inspectors do about COOL and produce items.


This presents a possible problem, but as long as USDA is reasonable in its enforcement, and state officials are level-headed in their inspections, COOL shouldn’t be a painful process for the industry.


Most, if not all, fruit and vegetable shippers have begun labeling their products with origin information, so they should be an important part of compliance.


Traceback also becomes a component, as some retailers will have to prove they know where their fresh produce originates.


In the end, country-of-origin labeling is something consumers are entitled to, whether they say they care or not. There are so many high-quality, healthful items from all over the world in any store’s produce department that they should speak for themselves.


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