business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Associated Press reports that the American Meat Institute (AMI) has decided to fight Montana’s state law requiring country-of-origin labels (COOL) for beef, lamb, pork and poultry products sold in supermarkets and other retail formats.

The AMI position is that state laws cannot supersede federal law, and that the US Meat Inspection Act prohibits individual states from COOL mandates.

The Montana law is scheduled to take effect in 2006, but AMI has written to the state’s governor and attorney general objecting the state requirements. No response to AMI has been received as of this posting, according to the AP.
KC's View:
The problem, of course, is that this isn’t just about labeling. It is about controlling the marketing spin on meat and poultry products, and, by extension, keeping prices high by creating at least the perception that American beef is safer than beef from other places.

It seems like this subject has cropped up almost monthly since we started MNB back in 2001, with COOL opponents saying that it puts too much burden on retailers and is largely a marketing tool, not a safety net. We don’t disagree with that assessment, but think that shifting most of the responsibility to suppliers is a better response – and that if there is a food safety problem at some point, COOL will be an enormous help in reassuring customers.

We suppose that this is really an argument about states rights, not about food safety. Which means that it is more about politics and money than about safety and consumer interests.

Which is too bad.