Country of Origin Labeling Rules Take Effect

While groups opposed to the law are still hoping Congress will take action – new country of origin rules have taken effect. Labels must now state where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. USDA and supporters of COOL say this will provide clarity to consumers who want to know more about the origins of what they eat.

American Meat Institute Senior Vice President for Public Affairs Janet Riley says the rule is needlessly complex and confusing – adding that there are contradictions in the law. Ground beef labels only need to say the beef is a product of whatever countries the processor might have procured it from in the last 60 days, kidneys and other organ meats, meat sold to restaurants and processed meat are all exempt. Chicken requires the label – turkey does not.

AMI isn’t the only group unhappy with the COOL rule. Meat and food processors sent a letter to Congress last month noting that Canada and Mexico are still challenging the rule in trade court. If those countries retaliate with tariffs on food products made in the U.S. – the companies said it would cost billions of dollars and kill jobs here. If the World Trade Organization does rule in favor of Canada and Mexico – Cargill’s Mike Martin says they could again have to revise thousands of labels.

USDA believes the rule complies with international trade laws.  National Farmers Union also supports the rule, stating in a recent release that “It is clear that calls for changes to the COOL law do not have the interests of our consumers in mind,” said Johnson. “Changes to or a repeal of the law would do more harm than good to not only meat and poultry, but so many other industries. This is a widely-supported law and should remain as adopted by Congress in 2008.”