FSIS eases COOL restrictions

USDA to develop guidance for voluntary labeling for establishments that wish to continue labeling geographic claims.

Following Congress’ inclusion in the omnibus spending bill of a full repeal of the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service released a notice to its inspection program personnel to make them aware of the changes to the law.

On Dec. 18, the secretary of agriculture announced that the Agricultural Marketing Service’s COOL regulations for muscle cuts of beef and pork and ground beef and pork will no longer be enforced at the retail level.

The notice said FSIS inspectors no longer need to take “any independent action on enforcement of these rules other than to notify their supervisor if they have concerns.”

Separately, FSIS is developing guidance for federally inspected establishments to geographic claims they may wish to make on beef and pork muscle cuts and ground products now that the COOL regulations are no longer being enforced.

Following seven years of World Trade Organization challenges to the COOL law, WTO deterimined this fall that Canada and Mexico are allowed to place retaliatory tariffs on more than $1 billion of U.S. goods. Both the Mexican and Canadian governments expressed confidence that the COOL repeal clause included in the recently passed omnibus bill brings the U.S. into compliance, preventing the economic crisis from retaliation.

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