New US COOL (Country of Origin Labelling) rules recently took effect, with some additional ‘guidelines’ with which the food industry has been asked to comply ‘voluntarily’.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack published a letter on 20 February 2009 detailing the additional ‘guidelines’ and warning that non-compliance by the food industry could lead to the COOL rules themselves being made more stringent.
Several food industry associations have opposed mandatory COOL rules from the outset and there are even more groups that oppose the voluntary ‘guidelines’, arguing that COOL labelling is an issue for individual companies to decide on the basis of consumer demand. Canadian farmers’ groups are particularly angry about the ‘guidelines’ and the Canadian agriculture secretary has asked for data on how they will affect the livestock industry. Farmers’ groups argue that the COOL rules and ‘guidelines’ will disrupt the cattle and beef trade between Canada and the US, and are calling for a World Trade Organization challenge to the policy to be resumed.