The Food Marketing Institute has hit out at US Department of Agriculture proposals to reform country-of-origin labelling requirements, arguing the move could result in higher food prices.

Earlier this week, the USDA proposed a number of changes to COOL regulations that would require labelling of muscle cuts to include the origin designations about where each of the production steps (born, raised, slaughtered) occurred. The new rules would also remove the allowance for commingling of muscle cuts.

However, the FMI has argued the regulations would expand the record-keeping burden on the industry and ultimately lead to food inflation.

“The USDA’s revised, proposed rule on COOL adds additional paperwork burdens to a needlessly onerous regulation that is already costing retailers hundreds of millions of dollars each year, resulting in higher food prices,” FMI regulatory counsel Erik Lieberman argued.

“The USDA’s proposal would impose significant, additional costs, yet it does not bring us into compliance with the World Trade Organization’s ruling, and in fact, it erects new trade barriers that will set the stage for retaliatory tariffs. If tariffs are imposed by our most important trading partners, we will inevitably witness job losses and price increases.”

Indeed, responding to the USDA proposals, Canada’s agricultural minister Gerry Ritz insisted the changes would fail to bring the US in-line with its WTO commitments.

“We do not believe that the proposed changes will bring the United States into compliance with its WTO obligations,” Ritz said. “The proposed changes will increase the discrimination against exports of cattle and hogs from Canada and increase damages to Canadian industry.”

The US has come under increasing pressure to bring the country’s labelling requirements in-line with the WTO mandate on COOL. A complaint on COOL labelling was brought before the WTO arbitration service by Canada and Mexico, and the Obama Administration was given a deadline of 23 May to alter its labelling policy.