Canada has asked the World Trade Organisation to settle a dispute over US mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) requirements for cattle and hog products. 

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada, told just-food that the move follows the unsuccessful conclusion of two rounds of WTO consultations, held between the two countries in December 2008 and June of this year.

"We have been unable to reach an agreement on this issue," the spokesperson said. "It is our position that the country-of-origin labels burden Canadian producers with additional costs throughout the production process. We maintain that this is not consistent with the US' international trade obligations."

COOL is a mandatory labelling measure in the US that requires firms to track and notify customers of the country of origin of meat and other agricultural products at each major stage of production, including at the retail level.

This requirement, Canadian officials have argued, has caused additional costs to Canadian meat manufacturers and has dented sales of Canadian animals and meat products in the US.

For example, according to the Canadian authorities, the requirement that US processors have to segregate Canadian animals and meat generates additional costs - which results in some processors not buying Canadian animals, buying them only on certain days or buying them at a discounted price.

"The US COOL requirements are so onerous that they affect the ability of our cattle and hog exporters to compete fairly in the US market," said Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway.

"That is why our government has no choice but to request a WTO panel. This request demonstrates our ongoing commitment to resolving this issue and defending the interests of Canadian producers."