September 28, 2016

Consumer Reports Decodes Labels on Meat Packages

Consumer Reports is helping consumers decode the labels on their meat packages. Information on the label can tell you if the meat is organic, if the animal was raised without synthetic hormones or antibiotics, if it was grass fed, and more. Here are some label terms and what they mean. "Grass fed" means that meat must come from an animal that has never been fed grain and can graze in a pasture during the grazing season. The animal can be fed antibiotics and hormones. "Partial grass-fed" as a label term is meaningless, since all cattle eat grass or hay when they are young. Grain is given to some of these animals so they get bigger before slaughter. The American Grassfed Association and Animal Welfare Approved Grassfed labels have stricter standards than the USDA. "Humanely raised" … [Read more...]

USDA Ends Country-of-Origin Labeling Enforcement

USDA is no longer going to enforce Country of Origin Labeling requirements (COOL) for beef and pork products because the law was repeated by Congress in the Omnibus Bill. Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary, said that labeling regulations will be amended as soon as possible. The USA has been in a fight with the World Trade Organization for years over this issue. WTO ruled that Canada and Mexico, which opposed the labeling requirements, could impose more than $1 billion in tariffs on U.S. products as punishment for the "harm" the labels were causing producers in those countries. Many consumer groups and agricultural groups were in favor of COOL, believing that consumers have a right to know where the foods they buy come from. A Montana-based cattle trade association called R-CALF USA … [Read more...]

FDA Asks for Consumer Comments on Labeling Term “Natural”

The FDA is asking for consumer comments on the labeling term "natural". The agency has received three Citizen Petitions asking that that term be defined in food labeling, and one Citizen Petition asking that the FDA prohibit the term "natural" on food labels. Some federal courts have asked for administrative determinations from the FDA regarding whether some foods, specifically those with genetically engineered ingredients and those containing high fructose corn syrup, can be labeled "natural." The FDA states "it has not engaged in rule making to establish a formal definition for the term 'natural,' we do have a longstanding policy concerning the use of 'natural' in human food labeling." The term is considered to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic has been added or included in a … [Read more...]

COOL Damages Much Lower Than First Thought

The legal wrangling over country of origin labeling (COOL) took a new turn this week, when the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) filed a brief in the World Trade Organization dispute over the issue. The brief states that the $3 billion sought by Mexico and Canada in retaliatory tariffs vastly overestimate damages. The brief recommends that the damage limits be set at $43.22 million for Canada and $47.55 million for Mexico. USTR says that the methods used by the two countries to estimate damage was flawed and "severely overestimates the level of nullification or impairment attributable" to COOL. Food & Water Watch's Wenonah Hauter said in a statement, "the WTO has never certified Canada and Mexico's absurdly high claims for damages from the COOL case and is only now considering … [Read more...]

Coalition Urges Senators to Reject Changes to COOL

A coalition of food safety and consumer advocates has written a letter to the Senate, urging legislators to "reject any effort to repeat, rescind or weaken country of origin labeling (COOL) in any federal spending legislation." The World Trade Organization (WTO) just ruled against the United States COOL system, saying it was punitive to other countries. Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union said in a statement, "Congress needs to stay the court on COOL and leave it alone, especially now that the Obama administration has appealed the current decision to the WTO. COOL has been embraced by consumers who want to know where their food comes from and by family farmers who are proud to provide that information." COOL was first enacted in the 2002 and 2008 farm bills. A … [Read more...]

Study Finds Consumers Think Added Sugar Labels Helpful

A study published in the December issue of the journal Obesity has found that consumers think more information about added sugars on nutrition labels will be helpful. Food manufacturers believe that more information would simply confuse consumers. The study looked at 500 U.S. adults in a voluntary online survey. Most consumers, or 63%, said that knowing how much added sugar was in a food product (as opposed to naturally occurring sugar) would be helpful. Just 18% of respondents thought that adding this information would be confusing, but most of those  people gave reasons "that suggest they were indifferent to the information," according to the researchers. Those reasons included "I don't know" and "I don't care." FDA wants to declare added sugar on food labels and has proposed a … [Read more...]

U.S. Appeals WTO COOL Ruling

The United States has appealed the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on country of origin labeling (COOL) about labeling meat products that are imported. COOL has been in the news for years ever since the program began in the 2008 Farm Bill. USDA released a final rule in May 2013, requiring that meat labels include where the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered. Canada and Mexico promptly appealed the rule to the WTO, threatening to retaliate with possible trade tariffs. In 2012, WTO ruled against COOL in April and June, saying that it unfairly discriminates against Mexico and Canada because of record keeping and verification requirements. WTO ruled against COOL for a third time in October 2014. The U.S. appeal is within the 60-day appeal time period. Canadian Ministers Ed … [Read more...]

Appeals Court Won’t Rehear COOL Dispute

The fate of country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law took another turn when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rendered a decision not to rehear the dispute. So unless the U.S. Supreme Court takes the case, the USDA rules that producers put information about where meat was raised and slaughtered on labels will stand. But the World Trade Organization disagrees. The countries of Canada and Mexico have sued the United States several times, stating that these labels discriminate against producers in their countries who export meat to America. Canada and Mexico could impose steep tariffs on U.S. exports in retaliation. Consumer and food safety advocates want meat labels to include information about where beef cattle, for instance, are born, raised, and slaughtered … [Read more...]

WTO Rules Against COOL. Again.

The World Trade Organization released its compliance panel reports on the United States "country of origin labeling" (COOL) disputes Monday, and ruled against the United States. WTO found that "the amended COOL measure violates Article 2.1 of the TBT Agreement because it accords to Canadian and Mexican livestock less favourable treatment than that accorded to like US livestock." The ruling states that COOL has a "detrimental impact" on competitive opportunities of imported livestock because it necessitates "increased segregation of meat and livestock according to origin." WTO also states that the labels place a higher record keeping burden on imported meats, and increases the potential for label inaccuracy. Consumer advocates, including Center for Food Safety, are disappointed by … [Read more...]

Perdue and HSUS Reach Settlement over Chicken Labeling

The Humane Society of the United States and Perdue Farms have reached a settlement of two federal cases over Perdue's "humanely raised" claim on its Harvestland chicken labels. HSUS will dismiss their claims with prejudice, in exchange for Perdue removing the label claim. Peter Petersan, Director of Animal Protection Litigation for HSUS said in a statement, "we are pleased to see the claim removed from Harvestland's packaging, which we view to be misleading. We will continue to work to protect both animals and consumers." HSUS sued Perdue twice. The first was in New Jersey. Perdue tried to have a similar case dismissed, which paved the way for that action to proceed. The second lawsuit, a class action matter, was filed on behalf of Florida consumers and alleged that Perdue raised … [Read more...]

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