USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack says final rules that modify the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) provisions published Friday (May 24) should satisfy World Trade Organization (WTO) requirements to bring the original labeling program into compliance. They will further strengthen the overall program by requiring origin labeling to include information such as where an animal is born, raised, slaughtered and processed.
But in spite of important endorsements to COOL and its new revisions, reactions to the program have been mixed at best, with the U.S. Cattlemen's Association and the National Wildlife Federation providing early support, while Cargill officials and Canadian and Mexican meat exporters are saying new revisions only make labeling more complicated and costly.
Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Trade Minister Ed Fast issued a joint statement Friday indicating the Canadian government is very disappointed with the new rules and says the changes do not bring the U.S. into compliance with WTO obligations. Last year, the WTO maintained its decision and earlier ruling that claimed COOL violated international trade laws and discriminated against Canadian and Mexican meat industries. In July, a special body of the WTO gave the U.S. until May 23 this year to amend rules to bring the program into full compliance.