By Ching-Fu Lin
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District Columbia Circuit recently ruled against the meat industry’s challenge to stop the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) implementation of the amended Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rules. The current COOL regulations (amended in May 2013) require retailers to identify several types of information on beef, pork, and poultry products that were previously not required. It now requires labeling of the country where the animals were born, raised, and slaughtered along with the prohibition of the commingling of meat muscle cuts from different origins.
The old and less stringent version of the COOL regulations was published in 2009 by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) based on the 2008 Farm Bill (Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008) amending the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946. In the same year, Canada and Mexico brought a case in front of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), arguing that the old COOL requirements violated relevant WTO rules. The WTO DSB found that the old COOL requirements were inconsistent with the US’s obligations under Article 2.1 (national treatment principle) of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) as well as Article X:3(a) (uniform, impartial, and reasonable administration) of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT 1994).