After the USDA announced a proposal to modify the labeling provisions of the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program, the meat industry as well as the Canadian government have weighed in with criticisms.

The Canadian government issued a statement declaring that the plan falls short and vowed to continue fighting it, reports Reuters.

In a statement late on Friday, Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said his government was "extremely disappointed" with the U.S. proposal.

"We do not believe that the proposed changes will bring the United States into compliance with its WTO obligations," Ritz said. "The proposed changes will increase the discrimination against exports of cattle and hogs from Canada and increase damages to Canadian industry. Our government will consider all options, including retaliatory measures, should the U.S. not achieve compliance by May 23, 2013, as mandated by the WTO."

The American Meat Institute’s President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle also issued a statement that read, in part, “Only the government could take a costly, cumbersome rule like mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and make it worse even as it claims to ‘fix it.’”

Boyle noted that under the new proposal, a plant or grocery retailer that currently labels its product, “Product of the U.S.” would now have to change the labels on its packages to read, “Born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.” He added that the proposed rule is even more onerous, disruptive and expensive than the current regulation implemented in 2009.

“The bottom line: mandatory country-of-origin labeling is conceptually flawed, in our view and in the eyes of our trading partners,” Boyle said. “The anti-free trade objectives of this labeling scheme’s proponents are no secret.  Requiring us now to provide even more information at a greater cost when evidence shows consumers, by and large, are not reading the current country-of-origin information is an ill-conceived public policy option.”

Source: Reuters, AMI