Traverse City Record-Eagle

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September 14, 2013

Judge refuses to block meat labeling rules

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A federal judge has refused to block new rules that require the meat industry to include specific information about the origin of their products on labels. Industry groups say they’ll continue fighting.

The new rules took effect in May and require labels for steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat include clear information about where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in Washington, D.C., refused to issue a preliminary order, though she didn’t decide the overall lawsuit.

The American Meat Institute, a trade group that represents meatpackers, processors and suppliers, said it plans to appeal because the rules are too costly and don’t provide any health benefits. Seven other industry groups, including cattle and pork associations in the U.S. and Canada, have joined AMI’s lawsuit.

“We disagree strongly with the court’s decision and believe that several aspects of the ruling are susceptible to challenge,” AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle said in a statement.

The lawsuit argues that the rule violates the U.S. Constitution because it forces meat producers to provide information about their products, and the groups argue that officials overstepped their authority with the rules. Jackson said she didn’t think the arguments are likely to succeed in court.

The labeling rules have support from consumer groups, environmental groups and some other farmers’ groups.

Under the new rules, labels must specify, for example, “Born in Mexico, raised and slaughtered in the United States.” The previous labeling rule required only the country of origin to be noted, such as “Product of U.S.” or “Product of U.S. and Canada.”

The Agriculture Department has also prohibited meat processors from mixing meat from animals born, raised or slaughtered in other countries with meat from the U.S.

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