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Country of origin labeling: A theoretical and empirical analysis of market effects in the U.S. seafood industry

Siny Joseph, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) was implemented on seafood in the United States on April 4, 2005. MCOOL exempts the foodservice sector and excludes processed seafood from labeling. This dissertation contributes to understanding the economics of the MCOOL law for seafood by showing that current partial implementation may have unintended consequences both on the domestic supply chain and on trade. In other words, while labeling satisfies the market demand for information provision in one market, exemptions in the other market may create incentives for the diversion of imports, which are assumed to be lower in quality than domestic seafood, to the non-labeled sector. Analyzing alternate scenarios such as voluntary labeling shows that total welfare may be greatest under this scenario compared with partial MCOOL. Voluntary origin labeling of seafood by some U.S. retailers indicate there is no compelling market failure argument warranting MCOOL implementation. Trade between major shrimp exporters and the United States can be affected with partial MCOOL. It may lead exporters with questionable quality to change their product mix, i.e., export more processed shrimp relative to unprocessed shrimp. This work is therefore a step towards analyzing the effect of partial MCOOL policy in the seafood industry taking into consideration the nature of the industry.

Subject Area

Agricultural economics|Economics|Aquatic sciences

Recommended Citation

Joseph, Siny, "Country of origin labeling: A theoretical and empirical analysis of market effects in the U.S. seafood industry" (2009). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3379974.