U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary, Tom Vilsack, recently suggested there is no regulatory fix for country-of-origin labeling (COOL). After the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) ruling in favor of Canada and Mexico in an ongoing dispute with the United States over COOL, a team at the USDA studied the issue and found that there is no regulatory fix that would be consistent with U.S. law as it exists and also satisfy the WTO.
Vilsack said at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention that either Canada and Mexico will tell the United States clearly and more specifically what, if any, variation of COOL will work for them, or Congress has to give different directions that would allow the United States to comport with the WTO ruling to prevent whatever potential retaliation may occur.
The latest U.S. labeling rules, put into effect in 2013, require meat sold in grocery stores to indicate the country, or countries, where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.
According to the WTO report released in October, the labeling rules unfairly discriminate against meat imports and give the advantage to domestic meat products. This was the second time the WTO has ruled against the United States in this dispute. After passing mandatory COOL rules in 2008, the United States amended COOL in 2012 following an earlier WTO ruling against it.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will decide whether to appeal the latest ruling and Vilsack has previously said that an appeal would not be filed until January.