U.S. revises meat-labeling rules to satisfy WTO ruling

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WASHINGTON - Meat packers will be required to explicitly list the origin of beef, pork and chicken sold in U.S. grocery stores, the government said on Thursday, a regulation intended to resolve years of disputes with Canada and Mexico.

The Obama administration unveiled the new rule on the final day to comply with a World Trade Organization decision, issued in June 2012, that upheld complaints by the trading partners that the original U.S. rules damaged their livestock sales.

Under the new country-of-origin labeling (COOL) regulation, labels will carry legends such as "Born, Raised and Slaughtered in the United States" for U.S. animals. Meat from other countries could carry labels such as, for example, "Born in Mexico, Raised and Slaughtered in the United States."

No commingling of meat from various nations will be allowed.

In the original rule, which took effect in March 2009, packages could carry labels saying the meat was from the United States and other nations.

COOL was backed by U.S. consumer groups and some of the largest U.S. farm groups. It was opposed by trade groups representing U.S. cattle and hog producers and foodmakers.

Meat exporters in Canada and Mexico have said the rules would cut into cattle and hog shipments to the United States. The Canadian government has threatened a possible retaliatory strike against U.S. imports.

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PA  |  May, 23, 2013 at 10:10 AM

How do we verify what's being stated on these newly mandated labels? How do we know an animal was born or raised in the US just because some label says so? There is absolutely no system tracking and verifying when or where any particular animal was kept. Won't we need something like the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) to verify these label claims? Otherwise it is just an honor system supporting whatever bogus claim makes the most $$ for producers and retailers. It is unclear why we need so many labels in the first place. It is certain we don't need labels making bogus or fraudulent claims.

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