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Do you know where your food comes from?

A ruling against so-called country-of-origin labels could weaken important consumer protections

Published: October 31, 2014 03:30 PM

When you shop for food, you deserve to know where it comes from, and people overwhelmingly tell Consumer Reports they want to know where their food comes from in national survey after survey after survey.

Take meat, for example. When you go to the grocery store and pick up a package of fresh beef, chicken, or pork, there’s typically a label that tells you specifically where it was raised and processed. That’s because Congress approved, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture implemented, a law that requires certain meat products to carry a country-of-origin label, also known as COOL.

At Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, we support those labels. They provide valuable information to shoppers. If there’s a deadly outbreak of E. coli in beef from a certain country, or you prefer bacon or lamb from a particular place, these labels help you make informed decisions.

But the World Trade Organization recently ruled against the U.S. rules for COOL, saying they put Mexican and Canadian meat imports at an unfair disadvantage. Mexico and Canada are seeking a much more vague label, or no label at all. The U.S. government has until late December to decide whether to appeal the WTO’s decision, or it could ask for an extension of the deadline.

Consumers have a right to know, and want to know, the origin of their food. We strongly believe the U.S. should appeal the WTO’s decision for consumers' sake and keep fighting for country-of-origin labels.

Update: Comast-Time Warner Cable merger

Over the last several months, we’ve kept you up-to-date on our work in opposition to Comcast’s bid to merge with Time Warner Cable, which would create a cable and Internet giant. The proposed merger is under review by federal and state regulators. We believe the merger is a bad deal that would lead to higher prices, fewer choices, and even worse customer service for consumers.

Check out our new ad that ran in Communications Daily. It's a tongue-in-cheek tribute to 1950s monster-movie posters, with Comcast depicted as a towering “cable monster” that will stomp on consumers.

You can make your voice heard by signing our petition to the FCC at

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

Read other installments of our Policy & Action feature.

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