Food Retail Industry Applauds WTO COOL Ruling

Officials from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) cheered the news of the conclusion of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) dispute settlement panel report on the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law.

FMI's regulatory counsel Erik Lieberman praised WTO for recognizing "what the supermarket industry has known all along — that COOL is a protectionist law designed to make it more costly and difficult for retailers to sell imported foods. COOL has forced the industry to spend tens millions of dollars each year on unnecessary regulatory burdens," continued Lieberman, "all for little or no benefit to consumers. We fully agree with the conclusion of the panel that the COOL law fails to provide information in a meaningful way."

Although the COOL compliance rate last year was 97 percent, Lieberman said enforcement "has become more burdensome than ever, making it challenging for retailers to carry imported meats, produce and seafood." In addition, he continued, "While inspectors are demanding that more redundant records be maintained — at great cost to grocers —the COOL law will need to be repealed or rewritten in order for the U.S. to meet its obligations to global trading partners."

FMI will continue to advocate developing an alternative system to Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture "that will provide useful information to consumers and put our nation in compliance with international trade agreements.”

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