Country of Origin labels upheld

Appellate court sustained federal regulation of meat labeling

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbus ruled July 29 the federal regulation that mandates disclosure of country-of-origin information about meat products could be implemented. 

The plaintiffs in American Meat Institute vs. U.S. Department of Agriculture challenged the 2013 ruling in the district court as violation of both the statue and the First Amendment by requiring it to disclose country-of-origin information to retailers, who will ultimately provide the information to consumers.

The U.S. Congress had passed legislation requiring country-of-origin labels on a variety of foods, including some meat products.  Congress left the definition of country-of-origins definition up to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In particular, for meat cuts the amended statue required the three major production steps –where the animal was born, raised and slaughter- along with the country-to-origin of the meat to be defined on the label.

The question before the appeals court judges as it reheard the mandatory country-of-origins labeling case was whether the government can only require disclosures when it purposes to prevent deception or whether it has wider authority that would cover other types of speech. In the final decision, the appeal court favored the second interpretation.

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