US Court ruling supports meat Country of Origin labelling laws

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 18th September 2013

The American Meat Institute (AMI) has said it will appeal a decision by a US District Court not to block the implementation of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) May 2013 final rule on Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) for meat products.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in Washington DC refused on Wednesday 11 September 2013 to issue a preliminary injunction in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

“We disagree strongly with the court’s decision and believe that several aspects of the ruling are susceptible to challenge,” said J. Patrick Boyle, AMI President and CEO. “We intend to pursue them on appeal,” he said.

Lawsuit history

Australian Food News reported in July 2013 that US meat producers planned to make moves to block the CoOL law.

Joining the AMI in the lawsuit, which was filed 8 July 2013, are the American Association of Meat Processors, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, Confederacion Nacional de Organizaciones Ganaderas, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association and the Southwest Meat Association.

In their complaint, the meat and livestock organisations claim that the final rule violates the US Constitution by “compelling speech” in the form of costly and detailed labels on meat products that do not directly advance a government interest. They said that the 2013 regulation exceeds the scope of the of the statutory mandate, because the statue does not permit the kind of “detailed and onerous” labelling requirements the final rule puts in place. They also argued that the rule is “arbitrary and capricious” because it imposes “vast burdens on the industry with little to no countervailing benefit”.

AMI said that segregating and tracking animals according to the countries where production steps occurred so that the information could be detailed on label would “serve only to confuse consumers” and raise meat prices.

Australian Food News also reported in June 2013 that Canada had threatened to impose tariffs on some US products in retaliation to the US meat CoOL rules.

Details of the new CoOL rule

The new rules took effect in May 2013 and require labels for muscle cuts of beef (including veal), lamb, pork, goat and chicken; ground beef, lamb, pork, goat and chicken; farm-raised fish and shellfish; wild fish and shellfish; perishable agricultural commodities; peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts; and ginseng.

Under the new rules, labels must specify where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered. For example: “Born in Mexico, raised and slaughtered in the US”. The USDA has also prohibited meat processors from mixing meat from animals born, raised or slaughtered in other countries with meat from the US.

US meat producers to appeal court ruling on CoOL