U.S. House Votes to Repeal COOL Regulations
The U.S. House has voted to repeal regulations requiring country-of-origin (COOL) labeling on beef, poultry and pork following threats of retaliation from Mexico and Canada. Both of the bordering countries have stated that they planned to request permission from the World Trade Organization (WTO) to impose billions of dollars in tariffs against U.S. goods including beef, pork, cheese, cherries, maple syrup, chocolate and pasta if the labeling law was not rescinded.
After ruling against the law last year, the WTO refused a U.S. appeal in May stating that mandatory labeling indicating where an animal was born, raised, and slaughtered was discriminatory against both Canada and Mexico. Because the law requires the costly and complicated procedure of segregating Canadian or Mexican animals from those of U.S. origin, some U.S. processors have opted not to buy imported animals.
The law was included in both the 2002 and 2008 farm bills at the request of ranchers in the northern U.S. who compete with cattle from Canada, and was supported by consumer advocacy groups who claim it increases transparency in the food chain. However, meat processors and meat industry players have fought the bill for years, including in federal court, calling for a repeal.
So far, the U.S. Senate has not acted upon the bill, but Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Gerry Ritz states, “The only way for the United States to avoid billions in retaliation by late summer is to ensure legislation repealing (country of origin labeling) passes the Senate and is signed by the president.”