Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ranchers sue USDA to get labeling of meat imports

Photo via Morning Ag Clips
Cattle ranchers are suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture in federal court over relaxed regulations that allow foreign-produced meat to be sold in the U.S. without labeling its country of origin.

The lawsuit, filed in Spokane, Wash., seeks to reverse the USDA's March 2016 decision to loosen regulations that required imported meat products to be labeled with the country in which they were produced, Nicholas Geranios of The Associated Press reports. The lawsuit was brought by the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America and the Cattle Producers of Washington.

"Consumers understandably want to know where their food comes from," David Muraskin, an attorney for the non-profit legal group Public Justice, which filed the lawsuit, told Geranios. "With this suit, we're fighting policies that put multinational corporations ahead of domestic producers and shroud the origins of our food supply in secrecy."

Geranios reports, "Between 2009 and 2016, the USDA required country-of-origin labeling on meat." The lawsuit says the 2016 change violated the Meat Inspection Act, "which required that slaughtered meat from other countries be clearly marked." Multinational corporations use the newly lax regulations "to import more beef from more foreign countries, including countries with questionable food safety practices," said Bill Bullard of United Stockgrowers. Current regulations allow corporations that import beef and pork and other products into the United States to label that meat "Product of USA," Geranios explains.

Beth Terrell of Public Justice, said the U.S. imports more than 800 million pounds of foreign beef each year. Without country-of-origin labeling, "domestic ranchers and farmers tend to receive lower prices for their meat because multinational companies can import meat and misleadingly present it as homegrown," a Public Justice news release said.

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