The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has clarified its final rule governing inspection and certification of processed fruits, vegetables, and miscellaneous products regarding Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) of Packed Honey.

The final rule was passed in 2011, but in 2016, a number of honey packers and producers associations asked for clarification of country of origin labeling. The specific request was for clarity on whether country of origin labeling is required for honey that does not bear official grade marks. 

The original rule required 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.” 

The associations raised concerns about possible ambiguity as to whether this requirement applied to honey that did not bear the official grade marks. The AMS has clarified the final rule to say that honey packers must name the country of origin of all imported products, regardless of whether the labeling uses approved USDA marks or grade statements.