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Court upholds country-of-origin meat labels

By Jenni Spinner+

31-Mar-2014
Last updated on 31-Mar-2014 at 18:20 GMT

A US court has upheld a law requiring country-of-origin labeling on packaged meat products.
A US court has upheld a law requiring country-of-origin labeling on packaged meat products.

A US appeals court has ruled to keep in place regulations requiring country-of-origin labels on packaged meats.

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, ruled to preserve regulation requiring the country in which animals were born, raised, and slaughtered to be listed on the label on packaged steaks, ribs, and other cuts of meat.

Industry disappointment

The American Meat Institute (AMI) led a group of meat-focused trade groups filing an attempt to block the country-of-origin requirement in July 2013. AMI interim president/CEO James H. Hodges told FoodProductionDaily the requirement offers little benefit to consumers but could do serious damage to meat firms.

We disagree strongly with the court’s decision and believe that the rule will continue to harm livestock producers and the industry with little benefit to consumers,” he said. “We are evaluating our options moving forward.”

AMI and other global meat organizations have argued against the labeling requirement on the grounds the rule violates the US Constitution by compelling speech in the form of costly and detailed labels on meat products that do not directly advance a government interest. The group also claims the rule is arbitrary, and places significant burdens on meat firms with no discernible benefit.

Right to know

In his decision, Judge Stephen F. Williams stated furthering the consuming public’s right and desire to know about their food are worth what he termed a “minimal” intrusion on the First Amendment rights of meat companies. He also said the law “enables a consumer to apply patriotic or protectionist criteria in the choice of meat.”

Additionally, Judge Williams, in dismissing the lawsuit by meat industry leaders seeking to block the requirement, said the rule “enables one who believes that US practices and regulation are better at assuring food safety than those of other countries, or indeed the reverse, to act on that premise.”

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