US: Court backs country-of-origin meat labels
The US meat sector argued the rules added "unnecessary bureaucracy" and were "unconstitutional"
A US federal court of appeals has dismissed an attempt by the meat industry to block country-of-origin labelling rules.
In a decision issued on Friday (28 February), the court of appeals for the district of Columbia refuted a challenge by the American Meat Institute and seven other meat and livestock groups to regulations drawn up by the US Department of Agriculture
Under the regulations, labels for muscle cut-covered commodities derived from animals slaughtered in the US are required to specify where the production steps of birth, raising, and slaughter took place. The rules also eliminates the allowance for commingling of muscle cut-covered commodities of different origins. These changes will provide consumers with more specific information about the origin of muscle cut-covered commodities.
The meat industry has argued the rules, which came into effect last year, are a costly and unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. In the lawsuit, the industry organisations suggested the rules were unconstitutional because they represent "compelled speech", which is only constitutionally allowed if serving a substantial government interest, such as stopping contagious disease.
Judge Stephen Williams said those claims were unlikely to succeed in court and refused to block the labelling rules.
Williams wrote the labelling "enables a consumer to apply patriotic or protectionist criteria in the choice of meat" and "enables one who believes that United States practices and regulation are better at assuring food safety than those of other countries, or indeed the reverse, to act on that premise".
He said those goals are worthy of what he called a "minimal" intrusion on the meat industry's First Amendment rights.
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