Court of Appeals Affirms District Court’s Denial of Preliminary Injunction against COOL Regulations

March 31, 2014

By Riëtte van Laack

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently declined to stop USDA/AMS implementation of the amended Country of Origin Labeling ("COOL") regulations for beef, pork, and poultry products requiring identification of the country where the animals are born, raised and slaughtered and preventing commingling. The amended COOL regulations were issued in May 2013 (see our previous post here).   USDA gave industry until November 2013 to comply.  The American Meat Institute ("AMI") and others filed a complaint and request for preliminary injunction, which was denied by the district court. On appeal, AMI claimed that USDA’s amended regulations were outside the Agency’s authority under the COOL statute and violated the First Amendment.  They further claimed that the rule merely satisfied consumers’ curiosity.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision that “AMI [was] unlikely to succeed on the merits of its claims.”

Even if there is no appeal, the appellate decision is not the end of the road for controversy over COOL.  The World Trade Organization ("WTO") already found that an earlier version of COOL was a trade barrier.  The new COOL requirements allegedly are more onerous than the first, and Canada and Mexico are back at the WTO (see here).  A WTO decision is expected in summer 2014.