April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23
By Lindsay Baillie
For manufacturers, labeling a product as “Made in USA” involves much more than the item’s place of production. Protected by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), all American-made products sold to U.S. civilians must pass a strict set of standards.
According to the FTC’s website, items labeled as “Made in USA” must be manufactured in the U.S. borders from “all or virtually all” American parts, with parts also made in the U.S. Furthermore, “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.”
While manufacturers must follow these strict guidelines when selling to businesses and civilians, the FTC designations are not considered when the U.S. government is the purchaser. The U.S. government is required to buy only American-made goods if possible. However—following the guidelines of the 1933 Buy American Act—this classification is given to any item assembled in the U.S. with more than 50% American-made parts.
Beyond the FTC’s rigorous guidelines for Made in the USA products, there is a gray area which hosts products that are “assembled” or “built” in America. Products with the “Assembled in USA” designation include imported parts that are manufactured in U.S. factories.
Deviating further away from the Made in USA label, some companies classify their products as “Made in USA of U.S. and imported parts” or “60% U.S. content.” Under these classifications, some of the parts and materials are made in the U.S.
As consumers become more interested with buying Made in the USA products, research shows some companies are manipulating labels to get around the strict FTC guidelines. When looking for completely USA-made products, FTC advises consumers to watch out for packaging that displays the United States flag, a map of the USA, the words “USA” or “American” in part of the brand name.
While many of these labels and names imply an American origin, they may be used to trick consumers who are looking to buy exclusively U.S.-made items. When approaching products with this type of packaging/ branding, experts say it is important to look at the fine print for the products’ true origin.
Beyond that, dealers and consumers can check to see if the product is genuinely Made in USA. Certified Inc. is an independent, third-party certification source and U.S. non-governmental organization, which verifies five distinct types of “Origin of USA” claims: “Made in USA Certified,” referring to manufactured goods; “Product of USA Certified,” concerning consumable and/or ingestible goods; “Service in USA Certified,” regarding services performed at a location exclusively within the USA and/or its territories; “Grown in USA Certified,” associated with items such as flowers, plants, produce, etc.; and “U.S. Labor Force,” used to identify when all labor strictly associated with the assembly of a product is performed within the U.S.