December 14, 2018

Food & Water Watch Releases Memo on COOL Compliance

Food & Water Watch has released a legal memo that provides a guideline for the USDA to stand up for Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on imported beef and pork. The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled against the U.S. stance that meat products should contain information about where those products originated, saying they were “protectionist” against other countries. Canada and Mexico brought the case to the WTO in 2008, and the WTO issued their ruling last June.

Label on MeatsThe memo states that the Appellate Body that ruled on the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement could not complete the analysis to determine whether or not COOL violates Article 2.2. They did agree that COOL violates Article 2.1, which covers recordkeeping and verification requirements. The organizations Public Citizen, National Farmers Union, and U.S. Cattlemen’s Association developed the memo along with Food & Water Watch.

The WTO ruling found that COOL label rules placed a cost on imported livestock and meat that “exceeded the consumer benefit.” So retailers should simplify information labels and make them clearer so they are more meaningful, thus have more benefit.

The United States can bring itself into compliance by strengthening the COOL regulations so “more of the origin information tracked by producers is in fact provided to consumers.” That will bring recordkeeping and verification requirements into proportion with the origin information provided to consumers.

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement, “consumers deserve clear, transparent and information COOL labels and the WTO has no place meddling in American grocery carts. President Obama campaigned to protect country of origin labels in 2008 and he can do so again by implementing these straightforward improvements to COOL rules. The new legal memo demonstrates a reasonable next step for USDA that makes labeling more meaningful to them.”


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