On September 26, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s or the Commission’s) Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) held a public workshop on “Made in USA” and similar U.S.-origin claims for consumer goods sold in the United States. This is the first time the Commission has sought public input on its approach to such claims since issuing its 1997 Enforcement Policy Statement. The FTC is considering revising the Policy Statement or issuing formal rulemaking, and is seeking comments on consumer perception of “Made in USA” claims, the workability of the current standard, the value of a bright-line rule for the amount of permissible foreign content (e.g., a specific percentage), and its approach to enforcement, which currently emphasizes counseling compliance over prosecuting violations.

The workshop featured panelists representing members of industry, consumer advocacy groups, and FTC attorneys who are principally responsible for enforcing the Commission’s policy on “made in USA” claims. There were three discussion segments: (1) Consumer Perception – How Do Consumers Interpret Made in USA Claims; (2) Doing Business Under the Current Policy – What Are the Compliance or Policy Challenges Under the Current Framework; and (3) Enforcement Approaches – Should the Commission Reexamine Its Current Approach to Addressing Deceptive Made in USA Claims. Members of the public were not invited to speak during the workshop, but are encouraged to submit comments to the FTC docket. The FTC is requesting comments on 15 specific questions, attached in Appendix A.

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Photo of Steve Steinborn Steve Steinborn

Partner, Washington, DC

Steven Steinborn literally wrote the book on food labeling as a principal author of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) labeling guide. On top of that, he offers clients 28 years of experience in guiding informed business decisions, taking into account food laws and other regulations, as well as the environment in which companies operate. Representing food processors, restaurant chains, foodservice operators, ingredient suppliers, and trade associations, Steven focuses on advertising, labeling, and food safety. He is also a strong advocate in enforcement matters brought by the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the USDA, and state regulators as well.

From small start-ups to established international brands, Steven understands the dynamics of the food industry. He brings this knowledge to bear on cutting-edge issues ranging from claim substantiation to potential food safety situations. He is also regularly consulted in bringing and defending competitor challenges, and represents companies before the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division. Keenly aware of the current litigation climate, Steven works closely with marketers in exploring all avenues to reach important business objectives.

Beyond the food industry, Steven routinely advises consumer product companies on reporting and potential recall situations arising under the jurisdiction of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. His practice covers a diverse range of industries, including children’s toys, household appliances, infant products, gas grills, furnaces, consumer electronics, computers, printers, handheld devices, and child-resistant packaging.

Steven is a frequent speaker on innovation and legal compliance and has authored numerous articles on a range of subjects, from the latest developments in the regulation of genetically engineered foods to important developments that impact food advertising.

Photo of Veronica Colas Veronica Colas

Senior Associate, Washington, DC

Veronica Colas counsels clients on the regulations and policy issues affecting food companies from farm to table. She represents all segments of the food industry, including manufacturers, retailers, restaurants, and food service companies, as well as their trade associations.
Veronica provides clear advice and practical solutions for compliance with labeling, advertising, and safety regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Consumer Product Safety Commission.

A core part of Veronica’s practice is helping clients develop new products, label claims, advertising materials, and promotional campaigns, with a keen awareness of today’s litigation environment. She has a deep understanding of both current and forthcoming food labeling and production requirements, from nutrition and menu labeling, to the regulatory issues surrounding genetically engineered foods and organic food production.

Veronica also has significant experience in helping clients navigate regulatory enforcement challenges, such as Warning Letters, import detentions, and investigations by the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, Congress, and state Attorneys General. She works closely with trade associations and food companies to craft comments and develop strategies in response to agency rulemaking and other public policy issues. She is a frequent speaker and contributor to industry publications.

Photo of Mary Lancaster Mary Lancaster

Mary Lancaster provides practical guidance on complex regulatory issues to help food and beverage companies in all segments of the industry achieve their business goals.

Mary advises clients on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) compliance with current good manufacturing practice (cGMP), advertising and labeling compliance, and food safety issues that arise throughout the entire food supply chain. She also advises on enforcement actions and drafts comments on proposed regulations and agency guidance. Mary also has experience with matters in front of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Prior to law school, Mary was a legal assistant at a Washington, D.C. law firm, where she assisted lawyers in white-collar investigations, pharmaceutical class action litigations, and federal habeas petitions for death row inmates.