Made in America? What to Know About Deceptive Labels

Here's what to know if you want to buy products that were made in the United States

NBC Universal, Inc.

If buying a product that was made in the USA is important to you, you may be surprised to learn that labels can be deceiving.

The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on manufacturers who boast an American connection even if there isn’t one.

For many people, tags that say Made in the USA, Filled and Finished in the USA and Ships From the USA mean something special. But deciphering labels can be a guessing game.

FTC attorney Julia Solomon Ensor works to make sure that manufacturers who boast their products are made in America have the proof to back it up.

“For most products to be advertised as made in the United States, they should be all or virtually all made in the United States, all the way back to raw materials,” she explained.

All significant parts, processing and labor that go into the product must be of U.S. origin, and products should not contain any, or only negligible, foreign content.

Here’s an example from the National Institute of Standards and Technology: If a gas grill had knobs that were imported but the rest of the grill’s components were made in the U.S., a made in the USA claim is not likely to be deceptive, because the knobs make up a negligible portion of the product’s total manufacturing costs and are insignificant parts of the final product.

When you see a product advertised online as “shipped from the USA” the FTS says the product more than likely was made overseas and sent to a U.S. distribution center.

In 2021, the FTC finalized a rule giving them the authority to fine and penalize companies falsely using the Made in the USA label. Since then, they’ve cracked down on several, including Instant Brands, the owner of Pyrex. During the pandemic, demand for baked goods created shortages, forcing the company to source some of their measuring cups from China. Even though the products themselves were correctly labeled, according to the FTC, the company failed to update its advertising to disclose that.

“The advertising on Amazon during that time continued to say things like ‘as American as apple pie’ and ‘made in the United States,’ when in fact the measuring cups, some of the measuring cups, advertised were imported,” Ensor said.

The FTC said the company agreed to a number of requirements about the claims they make going forward.

Here Are Tips If You Want to Buy American Products

  • Read labels carefully
  • Consult websites that name companies making products in the U.S.
  • Contact a manufacturer directly

With the exception of automobiles, textiles, wool and fur products, there is no law requiring companies to disclose a made in the USA label. But for those that do want to boast their American heritage, they must comply with the FTC’s labeling rules.

If you find out that a product was mislabeled, the FTC wants to hear from you.

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