Eight US meat and livestock groups have taken legal action against the implementation of new rules on country-of-origin labels.
The organisations, which include The American Meat Institute, the American Association of Meat Processors and The Canadian Pork Council, argue the regulation violates the US Constitution, would confuse consumers and push prices.
Under the new rules, 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 rule 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 industry organisations say the rules represent “compelled speech”, which is only constitutionally allowed if serving a substantial government interest, such as stopping contagious disease.
“Because these labels offer no food safety or public health benefit, yet impose costs the government modestly estimates at $192m, the government cannot require them,” the AMI said.
The lawsuit, filed at the District Court for the District of Columbia, also claimed the rules, finalised in May, go beyond the bounds of statutory mandate, which did not allow what the organisations call the “detailed and onerous labeling requirements the final rule puts in place”.
Mark Dopp, general counsel and senior vice president of regulatory affairs at the AMI and a former USDA staffer, said: “Segregating and tracking animals according to the countries where production steps occurred and detailing that information on a label may be a bureaucrat’s paperwork fantasy, but the labels that result will serve only to confuse consumers, raise the prices they pay, and put some producers and meat and poultry companies out of business in the process. Everyone loses under this rule.”