Global Meat News: USDA sued by meat industry over country of origin labelling

By Aidan Fortune 22-Jun-2017

By Aidan Fortune | 22-Jun-2017

A lawsuit has been filed against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in an attempt to force it to re-introduce country of origin labelling.

The Ranchers-Cattlemen Legal Action Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) and Cattle Producers of Washington (CPW) filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.

It alleges USDA regulations allowing beef and pork to be classified as “domestic products”, even when those meat products were imported from other countries, confused consumers and harmed American farmers.

According to the groups’ legal representatives, the USDA regulations are in violation of the Meat Inspection Act which requires that meat products from animals born, raised and slaughtered in other countries, before being imported to the US, should include the country of origin.

‘Informed choices’

It hopes to change current USDA legislation which allows multinational companies to sell meat raised and slaughtered outside of the US with a ‘Product of USA’ label and force country of origin labelling to be properly implemented.

Country of origin labelling had previously been required up until 2016 when the USDA did a u-turn on its labelling stance.

“Consumers understandably want to know where their food comes from, and proper labelling would not only allow consumers to make informed choices at the market, but would also be a boon for American farmers,” said David Muraskin, a food safety and health attorney at Public Justice, one of the firms representing the lobby groups. “With this suit, we’re fighting policies that put multinational corporations ahead of domestic producers and shroud the origins of our food supply in secrecy.”

Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA, said the lack of origin labelling is confusing US consumers. “Transnational beef packers are supplanting US beef production with imported beef, including from countries with questionable food safety practices,” he said. “Unfortunately, our US Department of Agriculture is helping them by making sure consumers cannot distinguish imported beef from USA beef. This is harming America’s farmers and ranchers and is not what Congress intended. We hope our lawsuit helps US consumers choose to buy American beef.”

Scott Nielson, president of CPW, added: “Cattle Producers of Washington proudly raise a safe wholesome product under the rules and regulations required by our lawmakers. We should not be forced to compete with beef from other countries that do not have the same health and safety standards without the ability to allow the American consumer to make an informed decision about what they are feeding their families.”

The USDA has declined to comment on the issue due to litigation constraints.