Following up on a lawsuit filed in early July, a group of meat and livestock trade organizations asked a federal court on July 26 to grant an injunction against the implementation of the USDA’s country-of-origin labeling (COOL) regulations.
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The eight American and Canadian trade groups, including the American Meat Institute (AMI), asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to halt implementation of the COOL rule, which were issued in final form on May 24, while their lawsuit is pending. The lawsuit, filed July 8 in the same district court, claims that the final rule violates the U.S. Constitution by “compelling speech in the form of costly and detailed labels on meat products that do not directly advance a government interest,” according to a statement from the trade groups at the time the lawsuit was filed. The rule is “arbitrary and capricious, offering little benefit to consumers while fundamentally altering the meat and poultry industry,” according to the statement.
Requesting the injunction, the groups state that they “are very likely to succeed on the merits,” and the final rule will likely be vacated, but if the rules are implemented in the meantime they will “irreparably harm meat-industry participants.”
“Congress mandated country-of-origin labeling for meat and poultry, not lifetime itinerary labeling,” says Mark Dopp, senior vice president of regulatory affairs and general counsel for AMI. “The labels that result will serve only to confuse consumers, raise the prices they pay, and put some producers and meat and poultry companies out of business in the process.” He made the remarks in a press briefing when the lawsuit was filed.
Not everyone in the food industry thinks the COOL regulations are a bad thing. “The COOL rule will benefit the food industry in the long term because country-of-origin labeling will help retailers and manufacturers keep track of ingredients in their products in the event of contamination or a recall. This means more stringent product control with traceability and food quality procedures for retailers and manufacturers,” says Sahir Anand, vice president of corporate marketing and strategy at Trace One, a collaborative software platform for managing the development and quality of private-label products.
“Country-of-origin labeling has been instated by other countries across the globe, so this is not something new,” Anand says in an email. “The COOL rule is quite the opposite of ‘arbitrary and capricious’ because it will provide accountability and add traceability to a manufacturer or retailer’s existing risk management system.”
In a recent poll, Food Quality & Safety asked its website visitors:
Do you agree with the country-of-origin labeling rule?
Yes – 60%
No – 25%
I need to know more about the rule – 14%