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U.S. appeals court upholds COOL regulations

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday rejected a food industry challenge to a federal rule concerning labelling requirements for meat, a ruling that could have a major impact on businesses fighting federal regulation on free-speech grounds.
For the second time, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the 2013 regulation could be enforced. It requires labels on muscle cuts of meat to list the country of origin and other details.
The ruling is a win for the government, not just on meat labeling, but also potentially in other cases in which business interests object to regulations on free speech grounds.
For instance, one case that could be affected is a challenge to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule that forces public companies to disclose if their products contain “conflict minerals” from a war-torn part of Africa.
On the meat labeling rule, the American Meat Institute and related trade associations had sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the rule from taking effect. They said the rule violated companies’ free speech rights.
A three-judge panel of the court originally upheld the rule in a March opinion, but the full court of 11 judges decided to rehear the case. The full court agreed with the panel on Tuesday, but the court was split, with three judges dissenting.
The ruling will be a disappointment to Canadian exporters who say the so-called Country-of-Origin Labelling rules discriminate against imports and increase costs. The World Trade Organization has ruled in their favour and retaliatory tariffs are being considered.
The labelling regulation requires retailers to list not just the country of origin of the meat, but also information on when and where animals were born, raised and slaughtered. It strengthened a previous 2009 regulation.
The case is American Meat Institute v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, No. 13-5281.

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