The Federal Register has published a new Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rule written to bring the United States into compliance with World Trade Organization agreements. In publishing the rule, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is allowing public comments through April 11, 2013.
The new rule modifies labeling requirements for muscle cuts of meat and amends the definition for “retailer” include any person subject to be licensed as a retailer under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) of 1930 (7 U.S.C. 499a(b)), whether or not they actually have a PACA license.
Under this proposed rule, COOL labeling requirements would change for muscle cut covered commodities derived from animals slaughtered in the United States. For those products, covered retailers would need to inform their consumers of the country in which the relevant production steps—born, raised, and slaughtered—occurred. Two conditions are necessary to inform retail consumers of the location in which production steps occurred.
First, the relevant information must be collected by packers from producers and then passed to retailers. Packers and processors that provide muscle cut covered commodities to covered retailers already obtain this production step information needed either to pre-label retail case-ready products or to provide that information to their retail customers.
Second, the information must be made available by retailers to consumers through a placard, sign, label, sticker, or other format. The retailer would then complete the labeling of the production steps to provide notification to consumers.
The Agency is requesting comment and data on the means retailers would utilize to communicate the production step information required by this proposed rule.
AMS began working on the rule change after the U.S. partially lost a WTO appeal in 2012 to rulings in challenges brought by Canada and Mexico, and was given until May 2013 to bring its County of Labeling rule into compliance with WTO.