Eating local just got a little bit harder, as the country-of-origin labeling rule, known as COOL, was repealed under the federal spending bill passed by Congress last Friday. The decision was made in large part to avoid paying the more than $3 billion in tariffs that the World Trade Organization permitted Mexico and Canada to impose on American goods in response to COOL.
All meat will still be required to adhere to USDA laws before it can be sold, but in the wake of consumer demands for more labels, particularly with regards to GMOs, the removal of these labels is alarming.
Some Representatives, including Jim McGovern, were displeased with the House’s clear prioritizing of avoiding tariffs over the preferences of Americans, who want to know what they are eating. In 2013, 90 percent of surveyed Americans favored country-of-origin labeling for fresh meat.
Representative Rosa DeLauro agreed, according to reporting by Forbes, “This is bad public policy and bad for food safety. We should not let trade agreements change our rigorous standards. Informed choice is a bedrock principle of the free market.”
The final decision to repeal COOL was made after several WTO appeals and a final WTO authorization for the imposed tariffs on December 7th.
COOL, which required meat to be labeled according to its country of origin, originally went into effect in 2005 for fish and seafood, extending to all covered foods in 2009. The foods covered by the law included muscle cut and ground beef, lamb, goat, and chicken, wild and farmed fish and shellfish, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, some nuts, and ginseng. Some foods are now no longer required to be labeled in grocery stores, particularly beef and pork, allowing Mexican and Canadian, but also Australian, and Brazilian meats to be just as present as local meats.
Conversely with this removal of labeling, the federal spending bill also included a backdoor bill forcing the FDA to find measures for labeling GMO salmon before sale.
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