WTO may cut US meat labeling
Do you want to know where your meat comes from?
by Joan Jones Holtz,
Currently meat sold in the United States must be labeled as to country of origin. A recent World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling may soon change this requirement. If that happens, unless you buy direct from the farmer, you will have no idea where your meat comes from.
Country of origin labeling (COOL) was included in the 2007-2008 Farm Bill and mandates that beef, lamb, pork, chicken, or goat meat could be designated as "Made in the USA" only if it were "exclusively born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States." Although President Bush originally vetoed the bill, Congress overrode the veto, and COOL became law on May 22, 2008. Now the American COOL law has been challenged.
Mexico, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, European Union, Guatemala, India, Korea, Peru, New Zealand, and Taiwan have all asked the World Trade Organization to cut the U.S. meat labeling program. It is still unclear which WTO rule the U.S. is violating by labeling meat. The probable conclusion is that the U.S. can't institute a meat labeling program if by doing so consumers would choose not to buy meat from unknown countries whose processing standards are hygienically questionable (and ground meat that may come from hundreds of animals and dozens of countries).
The WTO issued its preliminary ruling against COOL labeling in May. The final ruling is expected as we go to press. Once a final ruling is issued, the US will have 60 days to appeal. If the US does not comply with the ruling, it could face trade sanctions.