A World Trade Organization (WTO) panel has issued a ruling against the United States in a dispute with Mexico and Canada over country-of-origin labeling (COOL) regulations for beef and pork products. According to the November 18, 2011, panel report, Canada and Mexico filed complaints arguing that U.S. COOL regulations enacted in 2008 afford “imported livestock treatment less favorable than that accorded to like domestic livestock.” In addition to labeling requirements, the regulations evidently required the segregation of imported livestock before processing, as well as ear tags certifying that the cattle are free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Although the WTO panel reportedly affirmed the right of the United States to enact COOL regulations, it found that the specific requirements provided less favorable treatment to Canadian and Mexican livestock. “Additionally, the panel determined that the U.S. COOL requirements fail to fulfill their consumer information objective because the information included on the labels is not clear enough in all instances,” concluded a November 2011 statement issued by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which could appeal the ruling. Additional details about the WTO investigation appear in Issue 398 of this Update. See The Associated Press, November 18, 2011.