Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released the following statement regarding the language in the omnibus bill repealing the country of origin labeling requirements for beef and pork products.
“The omnibus bill repealed the country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements for muscle cuts of beef and pork, and ground beef and pork. Effective immediately, USDA is not enforcing the COOL requirements for muscle cut and ground beef and pork outlined in the January 2009 and May 2013 final rules.”
USDA will be amending the COOL regulations as expeditiously as possible to reflect the repeal of the beef and pork provisions. In addition, all imported and domestic meat will continue to be subject to rigorous inspections by USDA to ensure food safety.
The decision to repeal COOL comes on the heels of a ruling from the World Trade Organization that found the labels discriminate against meat raised and slaughtered in countries other than the U.S. Earlier this month, the WTO allowed Mexico and Canada—America’s top ag partners—to impose more than $1 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods in retaliation if the labels were not removed.
Fear that those tariffs could extend to American products outside the meat industry—including jewelry, furniture, and mattresses—put pressure on Congress to repeal COOL.