Country-of-Origin Labeling for Foods and the WTO Trade Dispute on Meat Labeling [August 1, 2012]   [open pdf - 444KB]

"Most retail food stores are now required to inform consumers about the country of origin of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, shellfish, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, ginseng, and ground and muscle cuts of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and goat. The rules are required by the 2002 farm bill (P.L. 107-171) as amended by the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246). Other U.S. laws have required such labeling, but only for imported food products already pre-packaged for consumers. The final rule to implement country-of-origin labeling (COOL) took effect on March 16, 2009. Both the authorization and implementation of COOL by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service have been controversial. Much attention has focused on the labeling rules that now apply to meat and meat products. A number of livestock and food industry groups continue to oppose COOL as costly and unnecessary. They and the main livestock exporters to the United States--Canada and Mexico--view the requirement as trade-distorting. Others, including some cattle and consumer groups, maintain that Americans want and deserve to know the origin of their foods, and point out that many U.S. trading partners have labeling laws. […] If this cannot be done quickly, WTO [World Trade Organization] rules call for implementation within a reasonable period of time. U.S. options would be to consider regulatory and/or statutory changes to the COOL regulations and/or law. If the United States does not comply, Canada and Mexico would have the right to seek compensation or authorization to retaliate against imports from the United States."

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CRS Report for Congress, RS22955
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