WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Marketing Service issued a proposed rule that would modify labeling provisions for muscle cuts covered under the Country of Origin Labeling program.

Under the proposed rule, origin designations would include information about where each production step occurred and would remove the allowance for commingling of muscle cuts. The rule also would amend the definition for "retailer".

"Under this proposed rule, origin designations for muscle cut covered commodities derived from animals slaughtered in the United States would be required to specify the production steps of birth, raising, and slaughter of the animal from which the meat is derived that took place in each country listed on the origin designation," AMS said. "In addition, this proposed rule would eliminate the allowance for any commingling of muscle cut covered commodities of different origins.

"These changes will provide consumers with more specific information about muscle cut covered commodities."

AMS took the action after the US lost an appeal of a World Trade Organization challenge brought by Canada and Mexico in 2012. The WTO Appellate Body said US mandatory COOL regulations violated trade agreements by giving less favorable treatment to Canadian cattle and hogs compared to domestic livestock. The Appellate body also said that recordkeeping and verification requirements of COOL had a detrimental impact on imported livestock. The US was given a May 2013 deadline to bring its COOL regulations into compliance with the WTO ruling.

The rule will be published in the March 11 Federal Register, and there is a 30-day comment period. Comments must be received by April 11, 2013.