Country-of-Origin Labeling for Foods and the WTO Trade Dispute on Meat Labeling [June 11, 2015]   [open pdf - 655KB]

"Both the authorization and implementation of COOL [country-of-origin labeling] by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been controversial, particularly the labeling rules for meat and meat products. A number of livestock and food industry groups continue to oppose COOL as costly and unnecessary, and 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. Canada and Mexico challenged U.S. COOL in the World Trade Organization (WTO), arguing that COOL has a trade-distorting impact by reducing the value and number of cattle and hogs shipped to the U.S. market, thus violating WTO trade commitments. In November 2011, the WTO dispute settlement (DS) panel found that (1) COOL treats imported livestock less favorably than U.S. livestock, and (2) COOL does not meet its objective to provide complete information to consumers on the origin of meat products. […] In order to meet a May 23, 2013 compliance deadline, USDA issued a revised COOL rule requiring that labels show where each production step (born, raised, slaughtered) occurs and prohibiting the commingling of muscle-cut meat from different origins. COOL's supporters applauded the revised rule for providing consumers with specific, useful information on origin. Canada and Mexico expressed disappointment with USDA's revised rule. In September 2013, a compliance panel was formed to determine if the revised COOL rule complies with WTO agreements. On October 20, 2014, the panel found that the revised COOL rule altered competition and thus treated imported livestock less favorably than domestic livestock."

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CRS Report for Congress, RS22955
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