At least five importing nations have imposed import restrictions on beef and beef-related products in response to Canada’s detection earlier this month of a 71-month-old beef cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease). The major beef importing nations of South Korea and Taiwan along with Peru, Belarus and Indonesia all have imposed import restrictions on Canadian-origin beef and beef related products.

“The actions by these five countries demonstrate that consumers the world over not only have an interest in knowing the country of origin of the beef they purchase; but also, they make purchasing decisions based on country of origin information,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard whose organization successfully defended the U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) law at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

However, Bullard says opponents are undeterred by real-world facts in their quest to ultimately overturn the U.S. COOL law in Congress.

For example, a recent news article by NET News/Harvest Public Media (PBS/NPR) states that research by Kansas State University agricultural economist Glynn Tonsor indicated that “country of origin isn’t really influencing what people buy.”

The same article quoted Mark Dopp of the North American Meat Institute as saying that country of origin labels do not have anything to do with food safety.

In a recent Tri-State Livestock News article, COOL opponent Colin Woodall of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) was quoted as saying that COOL has ‘nothing the producer is looking for’ and that there is ‘no benefit to consumers.’

“This anti-COOL rhetoric is nonsensical and debunked by the many countries that have now expressed their concerns over the safety of Canada’s beef supply and have acted on those concerns by imposing bans on Canadian-origin beef,” Bullard said.

The United States has not yet restricted Canadian beef imports even though Canada cannot explain how a relatively young beef cow born 12 years after Canada implemented what it claimed was an effective feed ban and nearly two years after Canada upgraded that feed ban – which is the country’s primary defense against the spread of BSE – was nevertheless infected with classical BSE.

“If U.S. consumers wish to avoid Canadian-origin beef pending Canada’s official answer to this ongoing mystery, they can do so today by looking for the country of origin label on their meat purchases,” explained Bullard.

“It is a travesty that the government of Canada and the meatpacking lobby here in the U.S. are tag-teaming in Congress to deprive U.S. consumers of their right to know the origins of their beef,” he added.