Mandatory country of origin meat labelling attacked by US meat companies!

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 15th July 2013

If American Government officials thought that American meat producers would welcome mandatory country of origin labels (CoOL) to distinguish US meat from meat imports, they might need to think again.

The American Meat Institute (AMI) and seven other meat and livestock organisations have moved to block implementation of a mandatory CoOL rule finalized by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in May 2013.

The suit has been filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. In addition to AMI, the organisations who have filed suit include the American Association of Meat Processors, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association, and Southwest Meat Association.

Rule “compels speech”

In their complaint, the meat and livestock organisations claimed that the final rule “violates the United States Constitution by compelling speech in the form of costly and detailed labels on meat products that do not directly advance a government interest”. Under the US Constitution, commercial speech may be compelled only where it serves a substantial government interest – for example, if the compelled speech is aimed at preventing the spread of a contagious disease.

According to AMI, the labels “offer no food safety or public health benefit, yet impose costs the government modestly estimates at $192 million”.

They also claimed that the 2013 regulation exceeds the scope of the statutory mandate, because the statute “does not permit the kind of detailed and onerous labelling requirements the final rule puts in the place”. The organisations said the rule is “arbitrary and capricious, because it imposes vast burdens on the industry with little to no countervailing benefit”.

“Congress mandated CoOL for meat and poultry – not lifetime itinerary labelling,” said Mark Dopp, AMI Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs.

“Segregating and tracking animals according to the countries where production steps occurred and detailing that information on a label may be a bureaucrat’s paperwork fantasy, but the labels that result will serve only to confuse consumers, raise the prices they pay, and put some producers and meat and poultry companies out of business in the process. Everyone loses under this rule,” Mr Dopp said.

Ongoing meat CoOL dispute with Canada

Regulation for US meat and livestock CoOL labels has also drawn criticism from Canada. Australian Food News reported in June 2013 that Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food department had released a long list of products it may impose tariffs on in retaliation to US CoOL rules. The Canadian response is part of an ongoing dispute with the US about CoOL rules.



Meat processors are suing USDA over country of origin labelling rules