WTO, US and EU meat COOL labelling – QeA to the EU Commission

Question for written answer to the Commission – Ricardo Serrão Santos (S&D) – 17.09.2015

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) recently ruled in favour of Canada and Mexico in their dispute against the United States in relation to rules concerning origin labelling for meat.

The indication of the origin of meat applied in the US, on which the dispute centred, is mandatory for meat coming from animals born, reared and slaughtered in the country. The WTO ruled that this practice discriminated against meat imports from other countries, and retaliatory measures are now possible.

An indication of origin is important for producers and consumers alike and can offer significant added value.

What guarantees can the Commission give that this type of dispute will not affect agricultural exports from the European Union, where origin labelling applies?

Answer given by Mr Hogan on behalf of the Commission – 03.11.2015

The WTO dispute outcome did not state that all origin labelling for meat is against WTO rules. Instead it found that the practical application of the US system was discriminatory as it accorded less favourable treatment to imported livestock than to like domestic livestock, in particular due to disproportionate record keeping and verification requirements for producers and processors of imported livestock.

The EU country of origin labelling system for meat differs from the US system and in particular treats meat originating in the EU and in other countries in a similar way.

As for meat exports from the EU, these are naturally subject to the labelling rules of the importing country. The WTO dispute underlines that those rules must be non-discriminatory. This can only be of benefit to EU exports as they should therefore not be disadvantaged compared to local production.

(Source: European Parliament website)

Thank God it’s Friday! Quick news from the food world (Week 42)

Here’s my article’s selection of the week:


– EU project seeks to improve GM food safety testing, by Caroline Scott-Thomas+, on bakeryandsnacks.com: an EU-funded project that aims to improve safety testing for genetically modified (GM) foods has published its first results.


– FSA promises probe after sheep’s milk protein found in UK goats’ cheese, by Mark Astley+ , on dairyreporter.com: the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has promised an investigation after several samples of goats’ cheese sold in Britain were found to contain up to 80% sheep’s cheese.

– Venomous spider strikes again, in Waitrose bananas, by Rod Addy+, on foodmanufacture.co.uk: a Waitrose shopper got the shock of his life when he uncovered the world’s deadliest spider in a bunch of bananas just delivered by the upmarket supermarket chain.


– Are Recalls an Effective Element of Food Safety?, by James Andrews, on foodsafetynews.com: given that recalls are often not issued until after the damage has been done, the question has regularly been raised in the food industry as to whether or not recalls are an effective tool in food safety. The question was the topic of a debate at this year’s International Association of Food Protection (IAFP) conference in Indianapolis.

– FDA to hold public meeting on key FSMA proposed rules, by Heidi Parsons, on foodproductiondaily.com: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced it will hold a public meeting Nov. 13 to discuss potential changes to four proposed rules associated with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

WTO Rules Against Country-of-Origin Labeling on Meat in U.S., by James Andrews, on foodsafetynews.com: the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico in an ongoing dispute with the United States over country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on meat.

– Making Sense of Seals of Approval, by Michele Simon, on foodlawfirm.com: “These days health-conscious consumers are increasingly seeking out food products not only with fewer ingredients and a “clean label”, but also foods produced in a manner that minimizes harm to the environment, among other ethical business practices. And it’s not enough to claim your product is healthy or sustainable with just words; to get that much-needed boost in a highly competitive marketplace, many food companies are spending the extra money to obtain third-party certification for various claims. But before jumping on the “seal of approval” bandwagon, it’s important to understand the legal implications of various types of certification. For example, some seals are legally defined and require third-party certification while others are just voluntary.”