The World Trade Organization has ruled US plans to change its rules on country-of-origin labels for meat contravene trade rules. 

Canada and Mexico last year called on the WTO to look into the planned amendments to US rules governing origin labels on meat.

The US wanted to introduce rules insisting pork or beef products sold in the US must be born, raised and slaughtered in the country to carry a 'made-in-the-USA' label.

The Canadian and Mexican governments said the changes unfairly penalised their livestock producers, which ship meat to the US for final processing and packaging.

In a statement yesterday (20 October), the WTO said the measures broke trade rules "by according less favourable treatment to imported Canadian cattle and hogs than to like domestic products".

US meat processors welcomed the WTO's decision. In a joint statement, The American Meat Institute and North American Meat Association said: "The WTO decision upholding Canada's and Mexico's challenge to the US COOL rule comes as no surprise. USDA's mandatory COOL rule is not only onerous and burdensome on livestock producers and meat packers and processors, it does not bring the US into compliance with its WTO obligations. By being out of compliance, the US is subject to retaliation from Canada and Mexico that could cost the US economy billions of dollars."

The US can appeal but has yet to react to the WTO's decision.