The USDA Thursday issued a final rule to modify the labeling provisions for muscle cut commodities covered under the Country of Origin Labeling rule following complaints from Canada and Mexico that the previous labeling provisions violated World Trade Organization rules.
The final rule requires the origin designations of muscle cuts to include information about where the originating animal was born, raised, slaughtered. The rule also removes the allowance for commingling of muscle cuts.
Removing the commingling provision, USDA said, means slaughterhouses will not be able to affix one label to two or more origins of meat even if the origins are processed the same day, therefore allowing labels to be more specific.
"USDA remains confident that these changes will improve the overall operation of the program and also bring the mandatory COOL requirements into compliance with U.S. international trade obligations," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The WTO gave the USDA a May 23, 2013, deadline for compliance after an appeal and affirmation of an earlier WTO decision that ruled U.S. labeling requirements discriminated against Mexican and Canadian livestock imports and therefore violated Technical Barriers to Trade.
USDA said the final rule will be published in the May 24, 2013 Federal Register and will go into effect today.
AMS will conduct a six-month industry education and outreach program because it may not be feasible for all affected parties to achieve 100% compliance immediately. The outreach will be similar to the program that was conducted following the 2008 Interim Final Rule and the 2009 Final Rule, USDA noted.