Katie Galan

Katie Galan

According to a Consumer Reports survey, nearly 80% of United States shoppers would rather buy an American-made product over an imported one if given a choice. These buyers believe that shopping “Made in America” helps conserve American manufacturing jobs, and many said they would be willing to pay extra for an American-made product.

Identifying American-made products is easier said than done. What do terms like “Made in the USA” and “Made in America” actually mean? And how can you know what products are made where?

How to identify American-made Products

Get a basic understanding of the FTC’s regulations. The FTC Made in the USA standard is rather complex, but a few key points can help you determine if a product was made in the United States or not. Manufacturers must disclose U.S. wool, fur, textile products and automobiles. Outside of those products, manufacturers and marketers decide whether to make claims about how American their product really is. While FTC regulations apply to all claims made, they do not pre-approve advertising or labeling claims. This means a company could make false claims, and if no one reports them, they may not get caught.

Know your claim types. The FTC designates claims in a few different ways. There are express claims like when a product directly says, “Made in the USA,” and there are implied claims (i.e., “Our product is of true American quality.”) In either case, these claims must be truthful and substantiated.

There are also qualified and unqualified claims. Qualified claims describe the extent, amount, or type of a product’s processing or content and clarify that some of the product or labor is not of domestic origin. Unqualified claims mean that simply saying “Made in the USA,” means “all or virtually all” of the product was made in the U.S.

Watch out for wording. Read labels carefully and pay attention to the language. Keep in mind that when a company says a product was “assembled in the USA”, the product’s main components are likely imported from another country. Likewise, if a company says their product is “engineered in the USA” they probably mean engineers produced the concept for the product in the U.S., but U.S. workers did not assemble it in a domestic factory. In addition, it’s important to know that “Made in America” technically includes products made anywhere in North, South or Central America. Only the term “Made in the USA” specifically applies to the U.S.

Contact the manufacturer directly. Always look up a company’s official website and research before purchasing a product. If you can, call them to find out just how much of their product was made in the USA and where assembly or processing took place. If a company doesn’t have a website or contact information or can’t back up its claims, shop elsewhere.

Look out for misleading logos and brand names. Just because a product features a picture of the American flag, an eagle, or the Statue of Liberty doesn’t mean the company made it in the USA. In addition, some foreign-made products come from makers with patriotic-sounding names, such as Americana Olives or United States Sweaters. When determining where a product was made, don’t rely on brand names and logos alone.

Report false advertising. If you suspect mislabeling or noncompliance with the FTC’s Made in USA standard, report it. You can contact the Division of Enforcement, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C., 20580 by mail or by calling 202-326-2996. You can also send an email to MUSA@ftc.gov. If you have information about import or export fraud, for example, removing country of origin labels and replacing them with Made in USA labels, call Customs’ toll-free Commercial Fraud Hotline, 1-800-ITS-FAKE. You can also report noncompliance to your state Attorney General and BBB Scam Tracker.

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Katie Galan is the regional driector for BBB serving the Heart of Texas. She can be reached at 844-222-4968, Ext. orkgalan@corpuschristi.bbb.org.

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