What do those words “Made in the USA” really mean? How does a company that manufactures in the USA go about getting the Made in the USA label on their products? Here is a brief summary of the FTC label requirements.
What the “Made in the USA” Label Really Means
A company that manufactures on US soil is NOT required to seek approval to use the “Made in the USA” label on their products.
The only requirement is, according to the FTC, that the product be “all or virtually all” made in the USA. That is up to the individual companies to determine. The Federal Trade Commission has set up some guidelines to help the company decide if their product fits the label or not. Since the FTC is responsible for preventing deception in the marketplace, their primary concern is that the label is not misleading to consumers.
According to the FTC, ” ‘all or virtually all' means that all significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of U.S. origin.
That is, the product should contain no (or negligible) foreign content”. This, the biggest qualification, is pretty open ended. Personally, I can see that “negligible” part being no big deal in an appliance, but in baby food or pet food, it could be. This is how pet food labeled “Made in USA” could still contain an ingredient that is made in China.
The only products that are REQUIRED to be labeled “Made in the USA” are automobiles and textile, wool, and fur products.
Textiles partly manufactured in the US, and partly manufactured in another country, must have all countries on the label. I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky that so many other products label their country of origin.
If a product carries the label, “Assembled in the USA”, it must have undergone a “substantial transformation” on US soil.
An electronic device, put together from all foreign parts can not be labeled “Assembled in the USA”, unless we know where those parts came from. This is why you see “Assembled in the USA from foreign components” on some labels.
The only way the FTC knows when a company is misusing the “Made in the USA” label is if it receives complaints and then investigates. There is no system of review.
These guidelines raise several questions.
Are they strict enough? Should products that are consumed by people or animals be required to mention if they contain foreign ingredients, even if a small amount?
Does it make a difference to you as a consumer if an item is labeled “made in the USA” with disclaimers? For example, a board game my kiddos got for Christmas was labeled, “MADE IN USA” with “tokens and plastic spinner made in China” underneath in smaller words.
What products would we buy and support because they are made in whole or in part in the USA, but the manufacturer doesn't want to deal with the labeling? Are there well-known brands that shy away from identifying themselves as American-made?
In doing research for USA Love List articles, I have found quite a few great companies who don't promote that their products are US-made, even when the whole of their product is! We try to provide this information because our readers want to know. My priority as a consumer is to buy “Made in the USA” whenever possible. My snow boots are “Assembled in the USA” from parts made in different countries (including the US), and I know some American jobs came from their construction. Some is better than none in my opinion.
Why I Buy American
Keeping jobs in the US is a HUGE priority for me as I have had many family members lose jobs because the textile company, or the tool manufacturer that they spent their lives working for moved overseas. In supporting “made in the USA,” I feel more comfortable knowing that workers are being treated humanely in the workplace, especially after hearing reports about China's treatment of the workforce. I also believe that products like toothpaste, lotions, baby food, and pet food that are manufactured here are safer products for my family. I will buy a handmade item made in Virginia off of ETSY, even if it's made with foreign parts, over a similar item made in China. I know my money is going to a local artisan.
Why do you purchase American made products? Do you think more companies should consider labeling their products ‘Made in the USA' even if they have to be more specific on the label as to what parts of the product are or aren't US made? Would it make a difference in your purchasing choices?
At USA Love List we know that finding the ‘Made in the USA' label on products is very important to our readers. We strive to introduce our readers to the companies that manufacture their products in America and the retailers that support them. USA Love List editors believe that any company who manufactures a product in the USA either in whole or in part should be recognized for keeping jobs on US soil and promoting our economy. The more information we have as consumers, the easier it will be to make informed choices.
For more information on product labeling in the USA, check out the following USA Love List articles:
For information on pet food labeling: Natural, American Made Pet Treats and Pet Food: Don't Compromise on Your Companion's Care
For information on the USDA's Country of Origin Labeling: USDA Ordered to Remove Country of Origin Labels from Meat Products
For more information on the FTC, check out the Bureau of Consumer Protection website.