Canada opposed to voluntary COOL in the US

By Spencer Chase

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2016 - The new Canadian regime is opposed to any voluntary country-of-origin labeling program in the U.S. now that it's been decided the former U.S. trade law ran afoul, a Canadian official told reporters Thursday.

A voluntary version of the U.S. COOL law “did not come up at all,” Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said after meeting with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington. MacAulay noted that Canada “does not support voluntary labeling.” 

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Last month, the World Trade Organization authorized Canada and Mexico to issue just over $1 billion in retaliation due to the U.S. COOL law, but Congress repealed the provision (for beef and pork) before the two countries could get their tariffs in place. Even though the provision had been repealed, Canada followed through with the WTO process so they would have authorization to retaliate in the event COOL ever resurfaces.

In December, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service instructed inspection personnel “not to take any independent action to enforce labeling requirements related to claims conveying that beef or pork products have been produced or processed in the United States.”

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The instruction also noted that FSIS “is developing guidance for federally inspected establishments related to geographic claims they may wish to make on beef and pork muscle cuts and ground products with the COOL regulations no longer being enforced.”

Canada has a voluntary labeling program of its own, but Canadian stakeholders have compared it to a "truth in advertising" requirement that is less restrictive than the former U.S. mandatory COOL law. 

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