Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Meat Industry Loses Appeal on Country-of Origin-Labeling

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
  • MySay

    There should be labelling showing country of origin! I want to know where my meat and produce come from- Start TO Finish! It’s consumers Right.

  • John Munsell

    I have a totally different concern about this issue, the importance of which dwarfs consumer rights. Whenever any country, in this case America, passes legislation which in this case is labeling, all countries must now submit such legislation to WTO for approval. As such, we have jettisoned our sovereignty to WTO, which allegedly possesses more wisdom than we do, and directs activities on this globe. We have willingly acquiesced our autonomy to another body. USA is now USW, as in United States of the World. Did you ever think we would witness a 1-world government in our lifetime? If Americans are truly sincere global citizens, we will endorse WTO’s right to direct our activities. Of course, this benefits transnational companies, which desire unfettered, seamless global trade, ignoring obvious food safety & environmental & labor issues which are systemic in some countries. Anyone who disagrees is labeled a “protectionist”. Hmmmmm…………..I’m all for protecting the rights of America’s Ag sector and the fundamental rights of Americans to work, especially when we realize how citizens (including children) of third world countries are willing to work for a couple bucks a day competing against us. Equivalency, eh? WTO ensures that Americans are global cirtizens first, and Americans second. WTO is more focused on maintaining control over the earth’s citizens, than it is over product labeling. John Munsell

    • Catherine J Frompovich

      John Munsell makes some very good points about acquiescing USA autonomy to another body. Furthermore, COOL should be piggy-backed onto the current non-GMO labeling issue, which the U.S. FDA mandated in the USA. Most countries require GMO product labeling. Logically, COOL should apply to USA-grown agricultural products, so why is USDA dragging their feet? Probably because someone realized that COOL automatically could be applied to GMOs in the USA, which definitely is long overdue since the 1990s, and certainly necessary in order to comply with truth in labeling/advertising laws in the USA and now to comply with the WTO. WTO compliance may wind up being a turf battle, which will be interesting to watch for more reasons than one, I contend.

  • Stefan

    I don’t understand why the AMI, on behalf of producers in the NAFTA zone, has an issue with this? I would not buy any product that had the name of a Far East country on the label.

    • Rob

      Prior to COOL a processor could secure cattle from the U.S., Canada or Mexico, that were either ready for immediate slaughter or that had been finished in the U.S. They would then process those cattle U.S., Canadian, or Mexican on the same day based on the physical characteristics of the cattle and label it is a product of the U.S. because the substantial transformation and the value added activity occured in the U.S. Under the 2013 COOL rule Canadian, Mexican and U.S. cattle that are processed in the U.S. must be segregated through the entire supply chain. So instead of processing all finished cattle on the same day they have to for example process Canadian born cattle on Monday and keep all the meat seperate from the carcus to the box. Mexico on Tuesday and then on the following days they would have to change the labels for U.S. and process all the U.S. born cattle and keep it seperate from the carcus to the box. What COOL does is create inefficiancies in the North American beef industry which increases costs for processors which are ultimately passed on to consumers through higher beef prices. Producers also lose because increased processing costs mean processors will pay less for cattle to offset their increased costs. North American cattle numbers are currently very low. The result of COOL, drought, and low cattle numbers is U.S. processors shuttting down beef processing plants. If COOL did not exist processors could offset lower U.S. numbers with imports of live cattle from Canada and Mexico and run full prodcution lines.

  • BOKinLarksville

    Screw all these ASSHOLES!! Buy your meat/poultry from local organic sources.. Farm to table,, Support your local economy.. EFF these greedy rotten corporate bastards!!!