New U.S. meat label rule survives challenge by meat packers

Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:04pm EDT
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* Judge denies injunction to stop new labeling rule

* U.S. meat packers argued rule costly and burdensome

* Canada and Mexico challenged U.S. rule before WTO

* Dispute started in 2009 when labels became mandatory

By Charles Abbott

WASHINGTON, Sept 11 (Reuters) - A U.S. district judge refused on Wednesday to stop the government from requiring labels on packages of beef, pork, poultry and lamb sold in U.S. stores to include more specific information about the meat's country of origin.

U.S. meat packers said the latest country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rule will drive up their costs and become a bookkeeping nightmare. But in a victory for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson denied their request for a preliminary injunction.

Canada and Mexico are challenging COOL before the World Trade Organization as a U.S. trade barrier. They prevailed in an earlier WTO case against COOL, which led to the revised regulation issued in May and now under dispute.

"We are going to be faithful to the rule," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told a farm delegation early this week. "It's a battle we are going to continue to fight."   Continued...