The meat industry may still be waiting on the World Trade Organization to make a call on country-of-origin labeling (COOL), but in the meantime they’ve lost another round in their fight against the rule in the D.C. Circuit courts.
COOL laws mandate that meat products be labeled to tell where the food animals were born, raised and slaughtered. The American Meat Institute (AMI) has challenged the laws in U.S. courts on behalf of meat producers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Writing the majority opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Williams said that the interest of providing consumers with information overcame claims of free speech raised by AMI.
Tuesday’s decision by a split court of 11 judges reinforced an earlier decision made by a panel of three.
“The court’s decision today is disappointing,” said AMI Interim President and CEO James H. Hodges in a statement. “We have maintained all along that the country of origin rule harms livestock producers and the industry and affords little benefit to consumers. This decision will perpetuate those harms. We will evaluate our options moving forward.”
Consumer groups, on the other hand, celebrated the decision.
“We applaud the D.C. Circuit decision, which is an important victory for the U.S. public’s right to know how their food is produced,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “The Court confirmed that manufacturers do not have the right to avoid basic factual disclosures about their food products.”
The COOL law was adopted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in May 2013, but enforcement of the rule is still developing.
Canada and Mexico have both filed complaints to the World Trade Organization on COOL. A decision from the organization is still pending.© Food Safety News