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Judge Lets COOL Rules Stand For Now

A District of Columbia federal judge declined Thursday to issue a preliminary injunction stopping USDA’s latest Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations from going into effect. The ruling means U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji B. Jackson does not think the plaintiffs, led by the American Meat Institute (AMI), are likely to be successful in their statutory challenge to the final COOL rules.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which is responsible for implementing COOL, issued a statement praising Judge Jackson’s decision, while the coalition of U.S., Canadian and Mexican meat organizations announced it would appeal the ruling.

AMI President J. Patrick Boyle told The Hagstrom Report, a subscriber news service, that the plaintiffs “disagree strongly” with Jackson’s decision and intend to appeal. John Dillard, an attorney representing the North American Meat Association, said the litigation is “far from settled.”

Jackson went only a couple days beyond her promise to deliver a decision within 14 days of the date last month when attorneys made oral arguments on the motion for an preliminary injunction.

AMI, North American Meat Association and half-dozen other associations representing the meat industry sued USDA over the COOL rules on July 8. They argued that the rule requiring them to list where fresh meat was born, raised and harvested goes well beyond what the COOL law demands.

Jackson said USDA “did the best it could” to implement requirements contained in the 2008 Farm Bill. She said USDA was justified in making the requirements  in order to avoid consumer deception or confusion. The plaintiffs said that the final COOL rule, which became effective May 23, amounts to the unconstitutional compelling of commercial speech.

On USDA’s side in defending COOL are the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, National Farmers Union, American Sheep Industry Association and the Consumer Federation of American. Those groups say the final COOL rule allows domestic cattle producers to differentiate their products from foreign beef.

Farmers Union President Roger Johnson issued a statement that COOL protects consumers’ rights to know where their food comes from.

USDA was forced to re-write its COOL regulations after the World Trade Organization found they did not comply with international treaties. Canada has asked WTO to give the new rule a compliance review.

© Food Safety News
  • Oginikwe

    They don’t want us to know how convoluted and messed up the global meat market is.

  • Carlo Silvestr

    I really don’t understand the rationale that the AMI and its cohorts are using to oppose the COOL regulations. If they’re claiming that it’s going to cost them more money, how so? As I’ve written and commented before, transparency is important and I believe that all consumers have the right to know where something was produced. Only then can we, the consumer, make an educated decision. If we have the knowledge then we have the ability to choose. Why is the AMI fighting this? Why doesn’t the AMI want us to know where an animal has been born and raised? What’s in it for them?

  • scott

    It is not about transparency it is about eliminating their competition. Ma ny retailers will decide to carry 100 percent usa because of the costs associated will this law. What consumers are not hearing is that there is not enough supply for the demand and the result of the law will be large inflation on already high meat costs. The initiators of this law know this will happen thus allowing them to get more money for their products by illiminating their competition. The bottom line is customers will not have a choice, they will pay much more! They don’t tell you that! Why don’t they just market their products as “100percent USA” beef as a way to differentiate their product and let the customers decide? They don’t because the customer would choose differently from what they want! By the way it only applies to fresh meeat sold at retail and not foodservice, or frozen dinners, or any other meat. They did not tell you that? The juice was not worth the squeeze. Get ready to pay a lot more for your meat if this goes through! !!! This is coming from 26 years experience in the retail grocery industry.