Four U.S. Senators announced the American Beef Labeling (ABL) Act on Wednesday, that would reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling (mCOOL) for beef.
Senators John Thune, Mike Rounds, Jon Tester, and Cory Booker will formally introduce the legislation next week. It would require the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to develop a means of reintroducing mCOOL within one year.
Currently in the U.S., beef labeled as a Product of the USA simply means it was processed there — animals might have been born, raised or even slaughtered elsewhere.
“Transparency in labeling benefits both producers and consumers,” said Thune. “Unfortunately, the current beef labeling system in this country allows imported beef that is neither born nor raised in the United States, but simply finished here, to be labeled as a product of the USA. This process is unfair to cattle producers and misleading for consumers. When you see a ‘product of the USA’ label on the grocery store shelf, it should mean just that.”
According to a joint release from the Senators, a WTO-compliant mCOOL reinstatement would be developed and implemented within one year of enactment.
Mandatory country of origin labeling first became law in the U.S. in 2009. In May of 2015, the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled for a fourth and final time, that U.S. mCOOL discriminated against U.S. imports of Canadian cattle and hogs. Just days later, the House Agriculture Committee approved legislation to repeal mCOOL, and in December the U.S. Congress repealed the beef and pork aspects of the regulation. In March of 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture officially amended its COOL regulation.
Mandatory and voluntary country-of-origin labeling, and alternative labeling strategies have been revisited off and on since the loss of mCOOL.