The compliance deadlines in the three TBT cases (Clove Cigarettes, Tuna, and COOL) are coming up soon. COOL is up first: May 23.
USDA has just issued a proposed rule designed to bring the U.S. COOL measure into compliance. As they explain:
The proposed rule would modify the labeling provisions for muscle cut covered commodities to require the origin designations to include information about where each of the production steps (i.e., born, raised, slaughtered) occurred and would remove the allowance for commingling of muscle cuts.
The full proposed rule is here. (There is also a change to the definition of "retailer").
Recall that a key part of the AB's ruling said the following:
347 ... the informational requirements imposed on upstream producers under the COOL measure are disproportionate as compared to the level of information communicated to consumers through the mandatory retail labels. That is, a large amount of information is tracked and transmitted by upstream producers for purposes of providing consumers with information on origin, but only a small amount of this information is actually communicated to consumers in an understandable manner, if it is communicated at all. Yet, nothing in the Panel's findings or on the Panel record explains or supplies a rational basis for this disconnect. Therefore, we consider the manner in which the COOL measure seeks to provide information to consumers on origin, through the regulatory distinctions described above, to be arbitrary, and the disproportionate burden imposed on upstream producers and processors to be unjustifiable.
So, in a nutshell, the AB said there was a "disconnect" between the large amount of information collected, and the small amount communicated to consumers. In the proposed regulation, the U.S. responds to this by providing additional information to consumers (specifically, where the animal was "born, raised, and slaughtered"), in an attempt to make things proportional.
If this proposed regulation goes into effect pretty much as is, how will this play out in a (possible) compliance proceeding? On the one hand, the U.S. can argue that it complied with the ruling by addressing the AB's concerns. On the other hand, the complainants in the case can develop additional arguments as to why the regulation is not based on a "legitimate regulatory distinction." (The proportionality reasoning seemed a bit out of place in that context anyway.)
A possibly relevant question: What will consumers think of seeing details on where the animal was "born, raised, and slaughtered" on every package of meat?