The World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body said last week that the U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL) program violates WTO trade rules because the provisions give less favorable treatment to beef and pork imported from Mexico and Canada than to U.S. origin meat.  MCOOL imposes recordkeeping and verification requirements that cause a disproportionate burden on upstream producers and processors of livestock relative to the information conveyed to consumers or retail meat products, the ruling noted.  The decision gives the United States 15 months to comply and does not immediately alter the labeling rules.  The decision is not subject to further appeal.  Country-of-origin labeling became mandatory in March 2009.

A WTO dispute settlement panel ruled in November 2011 that the labeling provision violated WTO rules on technical barriers to trade.  U.S. labeling law requires grocers to put labels on cuts of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, ground meat or post signs that list the origin of the meat.   Certain other foods are also covered by MCOOL.  There was no indication from the administration how they will begin to comply with the WTO ruling.