The World Trade Organization ruled Monday that U.S. rules requiring labels on packaged steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat identifying where the animals were born, raised, and slaughtered are in violation of trade rules that require imports to be treated no less favorably than domestic products.

In its decision, the WTO said the country-of-origin labels (also referred to as ‘COOL’) forced meatpackers to segregate and keep detailed records on imported livestock, giving them an incentive to favor U.S. livestock. The WTO ruling was seen as a victory for Canada and Mexico, who had said the meat-labeling rules were protectionist, overly burdensome, and discriminated against livestock exports from their countries. Canada, for example, claims that its cattle and hog industries have lost more than $911.5 million because of COOL.

But watchdog groups said the WTO’s decision wasn’t in the public’s best interest.

“The WTO’s continued assault against commonsense food labels is just another example of how corporate-controlled trade policy undermines the basic protections that U.S. consumers deserve,” said Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter in response to the news. “The United States should appeal the ruling and continue to fight for sensible consumer safeguards at the supermarket.”


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