Today, following a protracted legal battle at the WTO, USDA issued a final rule removing mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements for muscle cut and ground beef and pork.
Beginning in 2008, Canada and Mexico challenged the COOL requirement, arguing that it discriminated against non-U.S. meat and was outside the bounds of permitted rules that WTO signatories can adopt. Following WTO rulings against the United States, USDA amended the rule in 2013. The revised COOL rule was also found to be non-compliant with WTO standards. In 2015, arbitrator granted Canada’s request for authorization from the WTO to suspend the application of certain tariff concessions for the U.S. Shortly thereafter, Congress voted in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 to remove the COOL requirement, and USDA stopped enforcing the rule as of December 18, 2015.
As a result of this change, retailers and their suppliers are no longer required to convey country of origin information for beef or pork products to their buyers or consumers under the mandatory COOL program. However, imported beef and pork products sold in consumer-ready packages must still bear the foreign country of origin under Customs and Border Protection and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulations.
COOL regulatory requirements for chicken, lamb, goat, farm-raised and wild caught fish and shellfish, perishable agricultural commodities, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, and ginseng remain in effect and are not effected by USDA’s action.