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Copyright © 2014
Angus Journal

USDA Supports U.S. Appeal of WTO Panel Report in Country of Origin Labeling

Last week, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) released a letter to industry representatives stating that country-of-origin labeling (COOL) regulations will remain in force and that the USDA strongly supports the U.S.. Trade Representative’s appeal in the World Trade Organization (WTO) to defend its existing COOL regulations.


On March 23, 2012, the United States appealed the WTO Panel report, issued Nov. 18, 2011, which found certain aspects of the U.S. COOL requirements, as they apply to beef and pork, to breach the WTO commitments of the United States. On March 28, 2012, Canada and Mexico, the complaining parties in the dispute, also appealed certain aspects of the Panel’s report. AMS is responsible for the implementation, administration and enforcement of the COOL regulations.

Under COOL, retailers must provide their customers with information about the origin of various food products, including fruits, vegetables, fish and shellfish, and meats. The goal is to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions about the food they buy.


The final COOL regulations became effective March 16, 2009. Since then, AMS has devoted significant resources to education and outreach. Those efforts have resulted in extremely high COOL compliance rates, according to AMS Acting Administrator Robert Keeney.


“Over these last three years, AMS has closely reviewed industry compliance with COOL,” Keeney said. “Most recently, in 2011, USDA and its state cooperators conducted more than 5,000 initial and follow-up compliance reviews of retailers. These reviews established an estimated 96% compliance rate for commodities under COOL.”


Keeney believes the COOL regulations are working well and that there is no need to change the regulations. In light of this, the Department has withdrawn the letter to industry representatives pertaining to COOL dated Feb. 20, 2009. Retailers must comply fully with the current regulations, notwithstanding the ongoing WTO litigation. The current COOL regulations will remain in full force and effect as the United States continues to defend the COOL requirements at the WTO.


“Nothing has changed,” Keeney said. “Business will operate as usual and the COOL regulations will remain in force until the Department sees a need to propose changes to them.”

Editor's Note: The articles was a release from the USDA AMS.