The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will amend country-of-origin requirements on beef, pork and mince products after COOL requirements were repealed by Congress on Friday 18 December.
A statement published by the USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsacks made it clear changes to meat labelling would be made “as expeditiously as possible”. This, the US minister stressed, was being done “to reflect the repeal of the beef and pork provisions” enshrined in law by the signature of Barack Obama.
Vilsacks added: “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.” However, “all imported and domestic meat will continue to be subject to rigorous inspections by USDA to ensure food safety” standards are met.
Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending package to avoid a government shutdown on Friday 18 December.
In the 2,000 page document that largely focused on spending, section 179 was pertinent to the meat industry.
The COOL repeal was included in the omnibus bill after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled that Canada and Mexico can claim up to $1bn in tariffs on US products.
The WTO ruled this was a punishment for the economic damage labelling requirements caused Canada and Mexico.
The US is believed to have breached global trading rules and, at the start of December 2015, the WTO ordered the US to pay Mexico $47.55m in compensation and $43.22m to Canada.
R-Calf USA, a cattle trade association based in Montana, expressed disappointment at the decision.
CEO Bill Bullard said the bill “strips US citizens of their right to know the origins of their beef and pork”.
Now, importers from around 15 countries including Honduras, Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Canada will find it easier to market beef in the US as labelling will be less rigorous than it has been.