U.S. law requires country of origin for all products

My granddaughter recently came home from a birthday party with a goodie bag with trinkets and toys that were made in China. I know they were Chinese-made, because each finger trap, yo-yo and plastic figurine had a sticker or marking that said so.

I realized, from my purse to my shoes to my television, I've never seen anything from a factory that didn't say somewhere on it where it was made. Is that because of a law?

— Sandra, via phone

We always assumed that China was simply proud of the craftsmanship that went into those music boxes, but it turns out Uncle Sam was behind those gold stickers.

It's all lined out in Title 19 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, which covers everything relating to "Customs Duties," and in particular — and in painstaking detail under Part 134 — "Country of Origin Marking."

The law stipulates items imported into the United States must be marked in a conspicuous place with the English name of the country of origin.

The statute explains that U.S. Customs has the authority to withhold delivery of items improperly marked, or the importer could face additional duties of 10 percent of the item's final appraised value.

Labeling of items wholly made in the U.S. isn't required by U.S. Customs, but "Made in USA" claims are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.

That can be dicey when something is finished in America out of components made elsewhere. According to an Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims, the FTC considers factors such as the location of final assembly and the proportion of U.S. manufacturing costs when substantiating a USA-made claim.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.


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