Posted May 20, 2015
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has rejected a U.S. appeal of its decision that country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on meat unfairly discriminates against meat imports, according to a Food Safety News article available here. Feedstuffs also published an article available hereand The Packer here.
The latest U.S. labeling rules require meat sold in grocery stores to indicate the country, or countries, where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.
According to a WTO report, the labeling rules unfairly discriminate against meat imports and give the advantage to domestic meat products. But the WTO compliance panel also found that the labels do provide U.S. consumers with information on the origin of their food, countering Canada and Mexico’s assertion that the labels do not serve their intended purpose.
Canadian cattle groups urged Canada to seek immediate permission from the WTO to impose billions in retaliatory tariffs on a wide variety of U.S. exports to Canada, according to The Packer.
Produce industry leaders said specialty crop exports to Canada and Mexico could be at risk if Mexico puts in place retaliatory tariffs, but there is no indication that mandatory COOL regulations for fresh fruits and vegetables will change.
A joint statement from Ed Fast, minister of international trade, and Gerry Ritz, minister of agriculture and agri-food, jointly with Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, Mexico’s secretary of economy, and Enrique Martínez y Martínez, Mexico’s secretary of agriculture, called on the United States to repeal the COOL legislation, according to Feedstuffs.
“In light of the WTO’s final decision, and due to the fact that this discriminatory measure remains in place, our governments will be seeking authorization from the WTO to take retaliatory measures against U.S. exports,” the statement added. In a separate statement Fast and Ritz said in June 2013 Canada released a proposed list of targeted U.S. imports for retaliatory tariffs and they are now preparing its request to retaliate.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson also believes there’s still a future for COOL on meat, according to Food Safety News.
“As we have seen in other disputes, once decisions are handed down, WTO members often work together to find a solution that will work for them,” he said. “In this case, such a solution must involve continuation of a meaningful country-of-origin labeling requirement.”

Update:  The House Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 2393, a bill that would repeal mandatory country of origin labeling requirements (COOL) for beef, pork, and chicken, while leaving intact the requirements for all other covered commodities, according to a Meating Place article available here.

The bill, which amends the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1946, passed the committee by a vote of 38 to 6. A combination of 68 Democrats and Republicans joined Chairman Michael Conaway (R-Texas) in introducing this bipartisan bill.
“We must do all we can to avoid retaliation by Canada and Mexico, and this bill accomplishes that through full repeal of labeling requirements for beef, pork, and chicken,” said Conaway in a statement. “We will continue working to get this to the House floor as quickly as possible to ensure our economy and a vast range of U.S. industries and the men and women who work for them do not suffer any economic implications of retaliation.”
For more information on Country of Origin Labeling, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.