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Meat producers sue U.S. over meat labeling rules

Staff writer |
Eight meat and livestock groups from the United States and Canada have asked a court to strike down U.S. meat labeling rules. Groups said that meat labeling rules say have hurt U.S. processors and Canadian farmers.

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Groups are arguing that they violate the U.S. Constitution. The suit seeks to undo recent revisions to four-year-old rules that required retail outlets to label meat with the information where it came from.

The country of origin labeling rules decreased U.S. imports of Canadian cattle and pigs which had a negative effect on Canadian farmers and the U.S. processing plants that need imported livestock. The rules are an effort to give U.S. consumers more information about the safety and origin of their food and some farm groups support them.

The World Trade Organization ordered the United States to comply with WTO rules by May 23, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made revisions to the country of origin labeling rules that Canada and Mexico said would only make the situation worse.

The rules no longer allow co-mingling of most muscle cuts from livestock in different countries within the same package. That creates added cost to U.S. meat processors.

"When weighed against significant costs, we think this rule doesn't make any sense," said said Mark Dopp, senior vice-president of regulatory affairs at the American Meat Institute (AMI).

The U.S. rule revisions, which took effect May 23, violate the U.S. Constitution by compelling speech in the form of the labels that does not directly advance a government interest, the meat industry groups said, adding that the rules also impose burdens on the industry with little or no benefit.

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