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Cattlemen Groups Urge USDA to Require Country-of-Origin Labeling for Imported Beef and Pork

  • As previously covered on this blog, mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) rules for beef products have long been the subject of controversy and challenge, culminating in: (1) a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that the COOL requirements violate U.S. trade obligations to Canada and Mexico and (2) Congress repealing COOL for beef and pork as of December 18, 2015.

  • Against this backdrop, on June 19, 2017, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Legal Action Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) and Cattle Producers of Washington (CPoW) filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The complaint alleges that USDA regulations that allow beef and pork to be classified as “domestic products,” even when those meat products are imported from other countries, confuse consumers and harm American farmers.

  • In court documents filed on January 12, 2018, R-CALF USA and the Cattle Producers of Washington clarified their stance, in response to USDA’s motion for summary judgment which contended that the groups were attempting to invalidate Congress’s repeal of COOL for beef and pork. The cattlemen groups contend that they are not seeking to reinstate COOL, which required country-of-origin labeling on all meat products, including imports and domestic. Instead, the groups state that they would like USDA to interpret the Federal Meat Inspection Act to require country-of-origin labels specifically on imported meat until it undergoes a substantial transformation in the U.S. Under current USDA regulations and policy, the cattlemen groups are concerned that meatpackers can label imported beef as “Products of the USA” even if that product receives only minor processing in the U.S.

  • USDA contends that the repeal of COOL for beef and pork in December 2015 resolves the issue presented in the groups’ complaint. USDA also disputes the plaintiffs’ claim that the Agency’s actions have caused them financial injury.

  • Given the controversial nature of COOL, coupled with its potential role in NAFTA renegotiations and recent state level efforts to reinstate COOL for beef and pork, it remains to be seen whether we will see a COOL comeback of sorts in the near future for beef and pork products.

© 2020 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 25
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Keller and Heckman offers global food and drug services to its clients. Our comprehensive and extensive food and drug practice is one of the largest in the world. We promote, protect, and defend products made by the spectrum of industries regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Commission and Member States authorities in the European Union (EU) and similar authorities throughout the world. The products we help get to market include foods, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, veterinary products, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. In addition...

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