On July 6, 2018, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published in the Federal Register a final rule clarification regarding the country of origin labeling of packed honey. AMS had published a final rule in the Federal Register on January 4, 2011, amending the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) governing the inspection and certification of processed fruits, vegetables, and miscellaneous products to include country of origin labeling (COOL) of packed honey.

A clarification of the 2011 rule was requested by several industry organizations, because the 2011 rule was published pursuant to Section 10402 of the 2008 Farm Bill (Pub. L. 110-246), which amended section 1622(h) of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (7 U.S.C. 1621-1627, 1635-1638) to require that all packed honey bearing any official USDA mark or statement also bear “legibly and permanently in close proximity (such as on the same side(s) or surface(s)) to the certificate, mark, or statement, and in at least a comparable size, the country or countries of origin of the lot or container of honey, preceded by the words ‘Product of’ or other words of similar meaning.” Specifically, the request sought clarification of whether country of origin labeling is required for honey that does not bear official grade marks.

The AMS clarification acknowledges that under pre-existing Federal laws and regulations, country of origin labeling is required by the Tariff Act of 1930, 19 U.S.C. 1304(a), and is enforced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) under CBP regulations (19 C.F.R. part 134). The Tariff Act requires that every imported item be conspicuously and indelibly marked in English to indicate its country of origin to the ultimate purchaser. The Food and Drug Administration provides guidance on COOL on behalf of CBP at http://www.fda.gov/. AMS recognizes that requirement was not invalidated or superseded by the additional marking requirements required by the 2008 Farm Bill. The additional COOL marking required by the Farm Bill applies only to the country of origin labeling statements associated with the existing regulations governing the inspection and grading of processed fruits, vegetables, and miscellaneous products, 7 C.F.R. 52.53, which provides for the use of approved identification marks, and paragraph (h), which describes prohibited uses of approved identification.