USDA backs COOL appeal
USDA’s 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 agency strongly supports the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) appeal in the World Trade Organization (WTO) to defend its existing COOL regulations.
On March 23, 2012, the USTR appealed the WTO dispute panel report, issued on Nov. 18, 2011, which found certain aspects of the United States’ 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. Mandatory COOL requirements help consumers make informed purchasing decisions about the food they buy.
AMS Acting Administrator Robert Keeney believes the COOL regulations are working well and that there is no need to change the regulations. 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.”