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COOL Battle Continues…

USDA Meat Labelling Law Issue Heads Back to U.S. Court [May 19]

By Amanda Brodhagen,

The fight over mandatory Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) isn’t over.

In a rare occurrence earlier this month, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned a ruling denying an injunction against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s controversial meat labelling rule, also known as COOL.

On April 4, the Appellate Court vacated a March 28 ruling that agreed with a lower court’s decision to allow the USDA to enforce its COOL rule.

A 12-judge panel will rehear the case on May 19, 2014.

Meat and livestock organizations have been pushing for an injunction to prevent the USDA from rolling out its amended COOL regulation. The legislation requires U.S. producers and processors to label where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered (e.g. born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States).

In July 2012, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the U.S. needed to amend its COOL legislation to meet compliance with trade commitments. It asked the USDA to modify its legislation to either a single mandatory label for all meet in the U.S. or voluntary labelling.

Instead, the U.S. tightened its rules. Canada and Mexico argue that the rule has worsened the situation further. Trade partners have maintained that COOL discriminates against out-of-country livestock.

Previously, the rules only required labelling on meat with the wording of “Product of ___.” In addition, the tightened rules now forbid the once common industry practice of ‘comingling’ of muscle cuts from different countries of origin.

The labeling rules have spurred legal action in the U.S. District Court and at the World Trade Organization. A decision from the WTO is expected in late June of 2014. Depending on the outcome of the ruling, the WTO could authorize Canada and Mexico to impose retaliatory actions against certain U.S. exports.

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