Made in the USA, Except In California

By Curtis Walcker, M.S.
September 9, 2015
Made in USAIf you are currently using “Made in USA” claims, either explicitly or by implication with the use of images such as the U.S. flag or map, it might be a good time to review them. Recently, a number of companies have been targeted in California-based lawsuits for non-compliance and potentially misleading consumers.

The FTC has a guide for complying with what is referred to as the “all or virtually all” standard. The standard basically requires that all or virtually all of the parts or processing that go into a product must be of U.S. origin – it should contain no or negligible foreign content.

When used properly, the FTC guidelines allow for unqualified and qualified Made in USA claims. An unqualified claim would be saying directly that a product was Made in USA or is of domestic origin, with no further context. A qualified claim would describe the extent, amount, or type of a product’s domestic or foreign content or processing to indicate that the product is not entirely of domestic origin. Examples of qualified claims might include:

  • “Made in the USA with U.S. and foreign parts.”
  • “Made in the USA with ingredients from around the world.”
  • “Encapsulated in the USA.”

Perhaps the reason for some companies’ troubles with the claims recently, particularly in California, is that the California Business and Professions Code §17533.7 is much more stringent on Made in USA claims. It reads:

“It is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation or association to sell or offer for sale in this State any merchandise on which merchandise or on its container there appears the words “Made in U.S.A.,” “Made in America,” “U.S.A.,” or similar words when the merchandise or any article, unit, or part thereof, has been entirely or substantially made, manufactured, or produced outside of the United States.”

You will notice that California does not have the same “all or virtually all” standard. Since many dietary supplements contain ingredients of foreign origin, qualified claims are commonly used per the FTC standard. If your dietary supplements are sold in the State of California, and you currently use any sort of Made in USA claims – explicit or qualified – a close read of the regulation above and review of your labels might be wise to determine you own level of compliance.