U.S. Country-Of-Origin Food Labeling Rules Illegal, WTO Says

U.S. country-of-origin labeling provisions violate global trade rules and unjustly harm agricultural commerce, World Trade Organization judges ruled, backing complaints by Canada and Mexico.

The U.S. requires food processors to identify the nations from which cattle, hogs and some fresh produce originate. Canada and Mexico said the provisions impose unfair costs on their exports, reducing their competitiveness. Judges agreed that the policies meant beef and pork from Canada and Mexico were treated less favorably than the same U.S. products.

Judges recommended in their 215-page report on the Geneva- based WTO’s website that the U.S. be told “to bring the inconsistent measures into conformity with its obligations.”

Today’s ruling may affect as many as 70 other WTO members, including the European Union, that have mandatory labeling requirements. The U.S. has 60 days to appeal and is considering this option, said Andrea Mead, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in Washington.

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