ARLINGTON, VA – November 23, 2011 – The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) issued the following statement today from Regulatory Counsel Erik Lieberman regarding the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Panel Report on the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law:

“The World Trade Organization (WTO) recognized what the supermarket industry has known all along—that COOL is a protectionist law designed to make it more costly and difficult for retailers to sell imported foods. COOL has forced the industry to spend tens millions of dollars each year on unnecessary regulatory burdens all for little or no benefit to consumers. We fully agree with the conclusion of the panel that the COOL law fails to provide information in a meaningful way.

“This year, COOL enforcement has become more burdensome than ever, making it challenging for retailers to carry imported meats, produce and seafood. Although the compliance rate for the program last year was 97 percent, this year, inspectors are demanding that more redundant records be maintained—at great cost to grocers.

“The COOL law will need to be repealed or rewritten in order for the U.S. to meet its obligations to global trading partners. We look forward to working with Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop an alternative system; one that will provide useful information to consumers and put our nation in compliance with international trade agreements.”