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World Trade Organization Opposes Country of Origin Labeling Laws in the United States

October 21, 2014
Center for Food Safety

Center for Food Safety Will Keep Fighting for “COOL” Rules

Washington D.C. (October 20, 2014) – The World Trade Organization (WTO) yesterday announced its opinion that the United States’ county-of-origin labeling law, known as COOL, violates the WTO rules. Center for Food Safety (CFS) is committed to the labeling law, which requires retailers like supermarkets apply origin labels to a variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, and certain cuts of unprocessed meats. CFS will continue to defend the COOL law.

“Food safety must always be our number one priority, and we will work with partners to defend the law,” said Colin O'Neil, Government Affairs Director at CFS.

COOL was originally passed by the Congress in 2002 to help consumers identify the country (or countries) food products were produced in. Like labels on toys and clothing that declare “Made in China” or “Made in Canada”, the COOL rules put those labels on our foods.

“Consumers have the right to know food origins. COOL helps people make safe, healthy food choices, and allows them to support local farmers and ranchers,” added O'Neil.

Buying American food products is important for both economic and environmental reasons. For example, some of the beef Americans consume is imported from Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and Central and South American countries including Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Brazil—where beef production is a major threat to the remaining rain forests. Buying foods produced closer to home cuts down on “food miles” and unnecessary emissions and makes it easier to monitor farm animal treatment.

Rather than comply with COOL rules, transnational special interest groups such as the American Meat Institute filed a lawsuit in 2013 to stop the rules. CFS and Animal League Defense Fund co-authored a brief to defend COOL. In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit confirmed that the government is fully within its rights in requiring corporations to provide basic factual information to consumers about food products, such as their production origins.

“While the WTO announcement is certainly a disappointment, this isn't the end of the road for COOL. The courts have declared the COOL rules to be valid under U.S. constitutional law. We will continue to defend the COOL rules from corporations that seek to sacrifice Americans' food safety for their own profit,” added O'Neil.

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