November 4, 2014
On October 20th, a World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance panel released a report that the United States Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations are in violation of rules. The dispute was raised by Canada and Mexico who are arguing that the labeling requirements are distorting trade between the countries. The compliance panel concluded that “the amended COOL measure increases the original COOL measure's detrimental impact on the competitive opportunities of imported livestock in the U.S. market, because it necessitates increased segregation of meat and livestock according to origin; entails a higher recordkeeping burden; and increases the original COOL measure's incentive to choose domestic over imported livestock.” A summary of the findings can be found here.
The U.S. has 60 days to appeal the ruling. An appellate body would consider the appeal and then decide issue a final determination on compliance. If they prevail, Canada and Mexico could seek compensation leading to retaliatory tariffs. In response to the ruling, industry is encouraging the administration to work with Congress to amend the COOL legislation to bring it into WTO compliance.
Senators Feinstein (CA), Durbin (IL) and Gillibrand (NY) recently sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting that the department move quickly to establish stricter pathogen standards for salmonella and campylobacter. The request comes in response to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which identifies flaws in the current poultry inspection system and a report from the Center for Science and Public Interest and the Pew Charitable Trusts. The GAO report finds that while USDA has taken some steps to improve the system, performance measures need to be set for both salmonella and campylobacter. The Pew report examines recent attempts to modernize the U.S. system and what other countries are doing to address pathogens. USDA had previously indicated that it would set new standards by the end of fiscal year 2014.
On September 29th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a series of revised proposed rules dealing with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The four amended rules are: preventive controls for human food, preventive controls for animal food, produce safety and foreign supplier verification. FDA has announced that it will hold a public meeting on November 13th to receive public comments on the recently released, including preventive controls for animal food. Click here for additional details about the public meeting. More information about the proposed rule on animal food can be found here.
During the November 4th elections, voters in Oregon and Colorado will be deciding whether their states will require mandatory labels for products including genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Voters in California and Washington State have rejected such a mandate in recent years. Recent polling suggests that the vote could be close in Oregon, while the latest numbers in Colorado suggest that those opposing the measure currently have the upper hand. Vermont is the only state to approve mandatory GMO labeling to date, with its requirements scheduled to go into effect in 2016.
On October 20th it was announced that FDA and the Center for Food Safety had reached a settlement regarding how food substances can be determined “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). The settlement ends a lawsuit brought by the Center for Food Safety seeking to invalidate the current notification process by which companies are currently receiving GRAS status. Under the settlement, FDA would be required to finalize a rule establishing the new GRAS process by August 2016.
On October 14th, FASS Washington Representative Walt Smith addressed the FASS Board of Directors during its fall meeting. Walt briefed board members on the latest developments with the National Academies of Science Study on animal science, fiscal year 2015 appropriations, and other policy issues impacting agriculture research and animal science.