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Country-of-Origin Labeling Challenge Gets a Rehearing Before Full D.C. Appeals Court

A meat industry effort to stop USDA from implementing its May 2013 country-of-origin (COOL) labeling regulations has come back to life.

A March 28 ruling that favored USDA was vacated April 4 by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, opening up a possibility for the American Meat Institute to still prevail in the dispute.

In setting the March 28 ruling aside, the appeals court for D.C. said that AMI’s federal lawsuit against USDA will be reheard “en banc,” meaning that all 11 judges in the circuit will hear the case.

The parties are being given the opportunity to file written briefs and provide oral arguments to the judges. Filing dates for the briefs are April 18 and April 21, with oral arguments before the appeals court judges scheduled for May 19.

The appeals court order vacating the March 28 ruling asks attorneys in the case to address “whether, under the First Amendment, judicial review of mandatory disclosure of ‘purely factual and uncontroversial’ commercial information, compelled for reasons other than preventing deception, can proceed ….”

AMI is the lead plaintiff in the challenge to COOL. Others involved are the American Association of Meat Processors, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, Confedaracion Nacional de Organizaciones (Mexico), National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association and the Southwest Meat Association.

The North American meat organizations claim that USDA’s COOL rule is an unconstitutional form of compelled speech exceeding the statutory mandate from Congress.

USDA reworked COOL rules to comply with a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that found the U.S. labeling violated certain trade agreements. WTO will review the new regulations later this summer.

Canada believes the U.S. remains in violation and thinks that WTO will allow it to impose retaliatory tariffs on American products. USDA insists the new regulations will pass muster with WTO.

© Food Safety News
  • Desimom

    Thank God, I am a vegetarian!!!

    • Oginikwe

      Thank God we raise all our own meat!

      • 神龙斗士

        Oh my god ,I am a Chinese ,we are eating fox instead of beef bought from walmart .you see ,here ,to label a real meat name is so difficult ,not to say telling the real orgin of meat . You are so lucky ,my American friends !

        • Oginikwe

          Yes. That’s why they are working so hard to take the COOL labeling away from us. They would like us to eat fox, too. 🙂

  • The initial decision noted that consumers have more than “idle curiosity” when wanting to know where our food comes from.

    Countries that allow horse slaughter have frequently ended up with horse meat in “beef”. Other countries use antibiotics and don’t note the fact. And still others use processing standards that may not meet the minimum we have.

    I’m concerned about this case’s impact related to GMO or other types of food labeling. For the most part, none of our concerns is based on idle curiosity. I’m also concerned that the judges will allow the implicit WTO threat to undermine their judicial impartiality.

    Especially when it comes to the DC court.

    Thanks for linking the court document.

  • we the consumers have a right to know what we are eating! we need to be able to make a choice – without the labels we can not do this. of what we eat. I don’t understand why the big deal? unless of course they are all lying to us just to sell their product? as far as the GMO’s go even without labeling anything that is not organic should not be on the shelves for human consumption

  • Patrick

    It would be nice to read a legal opinion on the situation by one of your lawyers.