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How To Tell If It's Made In The USA

Updated on August 8, 2009
Made in USA
Made in USA

How can you tell if a product is truly made in the USA? Given the current state of the economy, many people want to support their neighbors' jobs (and their own) by buying American-made goods whenever they can. American-made goods can also be a good choice from a value perspective because they are often of higher quality assembly and components than those that come from developing nations.

China in particular, which is a key source for many products imported by U.S companies, struggles with quality and safety issues. From pet food to children's toys, China-made goods have often failed to live up to American product safety standards.

In addition to product safety and quality concerns, Americans should also be worried about the USA's enormous trade deficit, which has reached over half a trillion dollars and must be financed by borrowing from abroad (notably from China), undermining our independence and security. Buying American is a matter of national as well as economic security!

There is some confusion over how to determine whether a product is made in the U.S. Every imported good is required by U.S. Customs to be properly labeled as to its country of origin. These markings must be permanent in nature (i.e. etched into glass, stamped onto metal, part of the plastic molding process etc.) The only exceptions are products which can't be marked like oil and sugar, or those that are intended for use only by the importer and aren't for resale.

The upshot of the U.S. Customs rules is that if a product is imported in final sale condition, it will be visibly marked as being from its country of origin right on the box or product itself. However, just because a product must be marked from its country of origin to be imported into the U.S., that doesn't mean that it must be so marked to be sold in the U.S.

This is where it gets a bit confusing. With a few exceptions like automobiles, furs, textiles, and meat, lamb, and poultry, the Federal Trade Commission doesn't require goods to be marked as to their country of origin in order to be put up for sale. The "Made in USA" label is really a marketing tool for American manufacturers rather than a consumer guide to place of manufacture.

In the case of automobiles, the law requires that cars be labeled as to the percentage of parts made in the U.S., as well as the country of origin of the engine and transmission. This information can be found right on the car info sheet when you're shopping for a new car. publishes an annual list of the cars with the highest U.S. content (curiously, the Kentucky-made Toyota Camry tops the list).

In order for a product to qualify for the "Made in USA" label, a product must be "all or virtually all" made in the U.S. This means that products that are assembled in the U.S. from imported parts do not qualify. Unless the non-USA components of a product are negligible as compared to its overall cost, a product cannot be labeled Made in USA.

So, what's the upshot of all this for consumers looking to purchase domestically manufactured goods? First, if a product is marked "Made in USA", you can be sure that it really was manufactured here. Second, if a product has no country of origin mark at all, you can assume that either it was (a) made elsewhere and repackaged here in the U.S. or (b) it was assembled in the U.S. from substantially imported parts.

Don't get fooled by products that are labeled "Distributed by Such and Such Co. - USA". "Distributed by" is not at all the same thing as "made in". Such products are almost certainly made elsewhere, but repackaged here. If they were imported in sale condition they would have the country of origin marking needed for importation.

Consumers who want to support American jobs by buying American-made goods should look for the "Made in USA" label. Accept no substitutes!


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    • MadeInAmericaSC profile image

      Skip 4 years ago from Myrtle Beach

      I track Products Made In America, and I track the State also. I find that useful information.

    • profile image

      Kevin P. 8 years ago

      If something is made is the USA why don't they include the STATE! Is that some kind crime these days