The Federal Trade Commission has finalized a new rule that specifies what kinds of products can call themselves “Made in the USA,” and sets penalties for violators.
The rule, passed by a 3 to 2 vote, allows the FTC to seek damages of up to $43,280 per violation against companies that falsely use “Made in the USA” or similar language on their packaging. To qualify for that language, a product’s ingredients or sources must come from the United States, and “all significant processing,” including final processing, must occur in the U.S.
Congress had authorized the FTC to create such a rule in 1994, with the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, the FTC declined to do so as a matter of policy until now.
The FTC’s new rule applies to all products. The USDA is separately looking into the issue of how “Made in the USA” labeling can apply to meat and seafood.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement that “we are initiating a top-to-bottom review of the ‘Product of USA’ label that will, among other things, help us to determine what that label means to consumers.”
The U.S. had allowed “country-of-origin labeling” on meat and seafood until 2015, when Canada and Mexico successfully challenged those laws before the World Trade Organization, leading to their repeal. The debate now centers on whether “Product of USA” claims can be made on meat from animals brought into the U.S. to be slaughtered or further processed.