how to tell if a product is made in the usa

How to tell if a product is Made in USA.

Discovering if a product is actually Made in the USA is more tricky than you may think. Scan this article to make sure you're never duped when shopping.

You resonate with the cause. You’ve done your research. You’ve diligently identified companies that “fit” your Made in USA shopping requirement. You’re blasting Bruce Springsteen on your stereo. You’ve fulfilled your patriotic duty. 

But are you getting duped? 

Labeling products with the Made in USA stamp requires strict diligence on the business’ part. Due to the stern guidelines set in place by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Made in USA-labeled products are generally a lot higher quality than outsourced goods, and businesses can get real creative trying to appear to fit the mold. Plus, let’s be honest, we live in the shortcut-savvy age of instant gratification, so there’s no shortage of companies out there who cut corners and look for loopholes to “earn” the honorable Made in USA logo. If only they’d use that same motivation to actually rise to the occasion. Sigh.  

Lucky for all, the Consciously browser extension gives Sherlock Holmes a run for his money when it comes to investigating Made in USA claims, and there are a few clues to seek when you’re navigating the mystery that can be business transparency. But never fear, that’s why Consciously is here.

Below are four ways the Consciously browser extension identifies true Made in USA products, and what you should look for when you’re ready to spend your hard-earned American dollar on American-made goods. 

Analyze Made in USA language – it matters.

Oh, the cleverness that can be in a string of words. When it comes to identifying true home-grown goods, there’s a couple terms and phrases to watch out for. Starting with: “Made in America.” 

Sneaky businesses like to slap this label on their products in hopes of piggy-backing off the true Made in USA label. But there’s one crucial word difference – America vs. USA. A product labeled “Made in America” applies to both Canada and Mexico. So there’s a good chance your “Made in America” pick may not have been made in your America. 

You also want to stay sharp when you come across the words “made” versus “assembled.” If a product is “assembled in the USA,” that doesn’t mean its materials are created or processed in the USA. They very well may all be overseas and it just means a large part of their production process is in the U.S. The term “made” usually includes raw materials and processing.  

Understand the FTC guidelines.

Essentially, the FTC guidelines were created to prevent misleading claims about the country of origin. So earning a Made in USA label means that “all or virtually all” parts and processing for the product are completed in the USA. The product may only contain foreign content if it is small enough to be considered insignificant or a negligible portion, like the wheels on an office desk. The assembly of the product must be completed in the US. 

When using the Consciously browser extension, please note that Consciously accepts the exceptions “Made in USA with Domestic and Global parts” and “Manufactured in the USA” in accordance with FTC guidelines. Why do we let it slide? Because these exceptions allow U.S. manufacturers to use foreign parts when they provide evidence that they are unable to manufacture or procure similar parts from American suppliers. Our nation is a young one, after all, so not all parts are created or produced on U.S. soil yet. However, the sourced parts cannot exceed 20 percent of the overall cost to produce the product and must be supplied from a Fairtrade partner.

Advertising ‘Made in the USA’ doesn’t mean authenticity.

You mean, not everything is true on the internet? Or TV for that matter. To answer the rhetorical question, unfortunately, no.

If you see a company advertise their product as “Made in the USA,” it’s important to know that using this phrase in no way means it was pre-approved by the FTC.

It’s actually up to the company to determine their compliance with the FTC Made in USA guidelines. Bummer, right? This is where fact-checking comes in. Look for any media they may have as proof of their USA-based warehouses and production plants, and identify if they list any information about the origins of the materials used in their products on their website. Silence is sketchy.

Read the product label. 

Beware of modifiers and be wary of the U.S. flag. 

Made in USA language can usually be found on the physical product near the price tag or barcode, or is engraved somewhere on the item. If a company includes some kind of modifier after the phrase “Made in USA,” it could be a red flag. An example could include: Made in USA with global materials. Again, modifiers are a bit of a grey area for businesses who require global materials due to the lack of availability in the U.S. – which is why it’s important to check they’re adhering to the FTC guidelines of this exception. 

If a business has an American flag on its product, it doesn’t always mean it’s a true Made in USA product. These stickers are not actually regulated by the U.S. government and can be a clever feel-good, marketing tactic. Don’t let the stars and stripes fool you.

Want to fill your mind with more knowledge on the subject? We’re here for it. Read more about the FTC guidelines and requirements for Made in USA products here.

Image of Consciously Browser Extension showing a laundry product with negative made in USA and Tests on Animal ratings and showing alternative products with positive ratings.

Consciously makes conscious shopping easy.

With one click, our free browser tool will instantly tell you if a company is helping or hurting the causes you care about while you shop.