The American Meat Institute (AMI) and the US Food Marketing Institute (FMI) have added their voices to a campaign to stave off proposed legislation to introduce country of origin labelling laws on meat products.

The Canadian cattle industry is concerned that country of origin labels to be applied to meat, fish and produce in the US will work to their disadvantage, and is buoyed by support from their counterparts in the US. Janet Riley, a spokeswoman for the AMI, which represents nearly all beef, pork, lamb and veal processors in the US, is quoted by Canada’s Financial Post as saying: “It’s safe to say that we stand together on this […] We support free trade and we oppose anything that is an obstacle to free trade.”

Riley added that her group has estimated the costs of the new US rules to the industry at US$1bn per year.

Meanwhile FMI president Tim Hammonds also slammed the new guidelines, saying they would “only generate an endless paper trail […] and create confusion for consumers without providing them any real benefit”.

The new federal guidelines took effect last week, although they will not become mandatory for two years. Under the new regulations, only items entirely raised and processed in the US are permitted to carry a US product label. Products made from ingredients from several countries must indicate this fact on the packaging.

For example, blended or ground beef made with raw material from a number of countries must be labelled to indicate all the countries of origin in descending order by weight.

Meanwhile there are calls in Canada for the government to mount a challenge via the World Trade Organisation, arguing that the new guidelines constitute a barrier to free trade.

Producers in Australia have also voiced concern about the legislation. To see an earlier story on their reaction, click here.