Dec 29, 2015

Quashing Consumers' Right-To-Know, Congress Repeals Country-Of-Origin-Labeling For Beef And Pork - Forbes

That next steak or pork chop you buy at the grocery store could be from Mexico and beyond, but you'll never know it.

On Friday, Congress repealed the country-of-origin-labeling rule (COOL) on beef and pork after the World Trade Organization (WTO) imposed $1 billion in retaliatory import tariffs against United States if the rule was not overturned. The repeal was part of the omnibusspending bill signed by President Obama on Friday.

COOL mandates labels on packaging that reveal the country (or countries) where the meat animal was born, raised and slaughtered. While beef and pork will no longer have to comply with COOL rules, chicken and lamb must still be labeled.

Canada and Mexico had argued that the mandatory U.S. labeling program discriminated against meat imports and violated WTO limits on what sorts of product-related "technical regulations" WTO signatory countries are permitted to enact. Meatpackers also complained that the cost of complying with the COOL program was too burdensome. The United States has lost two rulings and two appeals with the WTO regarding COOL since 2011. The import tariffs were authorized by the WTO on December 7th.

After the repeal, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement: "Effective immediately, USDA is not enforcing the COOL requirements for muscle cut and ground beef and pork." He reassured consumers that "all imported and domestic meat will continue to be subject to rigorous inspections by USDA to ensure food safety."

Critics of the repeal said that the WTO overturned a common sense label supported by a majority of Americans. 90% of thosesurveyed in 2013 favored country-of-origin-labeling for fresh meat sold in stores.