House Agricultural Committee votes to repeal COOL requirements.

  • As covered on this blog earlier this week, the World Trade Organization (WTO) rejected the U.S. appeal of a ruling regarding the propriety of its country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements for meat products.  The WTO’s latest action means that its earlier ruling against the COOL requirements will stand, exposing the U.S. to trade sanctions from Canada and Mexico if the government does not act to repeal or amend the requirements.
  • In response to the ruling, the House Agriculture Committee has voted to repeal the COOL requirements.  The bill, H.R. 2393, would amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 such that labels for beef, pork, and chicken products would not need to declare where animals were born, raised, and slaughtered.
  • Because the controversial COOL requirements were imposed by statute, a legislative fix was the only viable way for the U.S. to act in a manner consistent with the WTO ruling.  It is hoped that Congress will act quickly to enact this legislation to avoid significant retaliatory tariffs from neighbors in trade.

FDA releases additional Blue Bell inspection reports.

  • As covered on this blog yesterday, Blue Bell Creameries continues to face the ramifications of a multi-state listeriosis outbreak linked to consumption of its ice cream products.  FDA has published inspectional observations for Blue Bell production facilities, indicating the company’s awareness of positive tests for Listeria monocytogenes in one plant as far back as 2013.  At least one private lawsuit has been filed in the matter, with others likely to follow.
  • Responding to a request from a Dallas newspaper, FDA now has released four additional inspection reports from Blue Bell facilities dating back to 2007.  Although the earlier reports do not indicate Listeria contamination, they cite numerous violations of food safety protocols.
  • The additional negative publicity is likely to provide additional fodder for the upcoming complaints that we expect to be filed in this matter.  FDA’s willingness to issue public updates and to share the results of specific inspections indicates the Agency’s continued use of the media as a quasi-enforcement tool.