United States Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) – Fact Sheet

What is United States (U.S.) Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling:

  • U.S. mandatory COOL requirements for beef, veal, lamb, pork, fish and shellfish, fruits and vegetables and peanuts sold at certain U.S. retail outlets were created in the 2002 U.S. Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (or 2002 Farm Bill). Meat from goats and chickens, ginseng, macadamia nuts and pecans were added to the list of the covered commodities in the 2008 Farm Bill; and, venison was added in the 2014 Farm Bill.
  • These requirements only apply to retail establishments that sell more than U.S. $230,000 worth of perishable agricultural commodities during a calendar year. They do not apply to butcher shops, hotels, restaurants and institutions serving food, nor do they apply to processed food. These requirements aim to provide consumers with additional purchasing information.

Why is Canada Concerned with U.S. Mandatory COOL:

  • Meat produced in Canada is world renowned for its high quality and safety. In fact, the Government of Canada has a program in place so Canadian companies can voluntarily declare the country of origin of the food product on the label, in order to further assist consumers in their purchasing decisions.
  • While Canada respects that shoppers should be able to make informed decisions about the food they buy, the unnecessary requirements for beef and pork is unduly burdening Canadian and American livestock supply chains and hurting producers on both sides of the border.
  • Canada’s concerns, and challenge against U.S. mandatory COOL at the World Trade Organization (WTO), are limited to the discriminatory treatment of Canadian hogs and cattle after they have entered the U.S. and been bought by U.S. producers or processors and are subsequently slaughtered in the U.S.
  • The discrimination stems from substantial additional costs that are incurred by those in the U.S. meat supply chain, including producers, processors, distributors, and retailers, who must segregate Canadian animals from American animals – and the meat derived from them – at each step in the production process, while those that handle U.S. animals only do not incur any of these additional costs.
  • Canada has estimated the damages caused by COOL to be just over $3 billion annually. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that COOL has cost the U.S. billions of dollars without providing any quantifiable benefit to consumers.

World Trade Organization Rulings:

  • The WTO has clearly ruled on four separate occasions (May 18, 2015; October 20, 2014; June 29, 2012; and November 18, 2011) that COOL discriminates against Canadian cattle and hogs and violates the trade obligations of the United States.
  • Canada requested authorization from the WTO to impose just over $3 billion in retaliatory duties on a wide variety of U.S. exports to Canada if the U.S. does not bring COOL into conformity with its WTO trading obligations by eliminating the discrimination against Canadian livestock.
  • On December 7, 2015, the WTO ruled that that Canada can impose retaliatory surtaxes on $1.054 billion of U.S. exports to Canada as a result of the economic harm caused by the U.S. COOL policy, once final WTO authorization is obtained. The United States cannot appeal the ruling.
  • On December 21, 2015, Canada obtained WTO authorization to impose retaliatory surtaxes on U.S. exports to Canada worth $1.054 billion annually. This is the final technical step in the WTO dispute settlement process.
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