USDA Prevails at the D.C. Circuit

July 31, 2014

Authored by: Sara Ahmed

Yesterday, a D.C. Circuit decision came down upholding the country of origin labeling requirements (“COOL”). COOL is the law that requires retailers licensed under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act to, among other things, label certain meat products with information regarding where the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered.

In yesterday’s ruling, the Court took an expansive approach to the Zauderer standard and held that, at least in the context of meat labeling, the government can compel commercial speech for reasons beyond preventing deception.

Included in those reasons the court cited to were: “the context and long history of country-of-origin disclosures to enable consumers to choose American-made products; the demonstrated consumer interest in extending country-of-origin labeling to food products; and the individual health concerns and market impacts that can arise in the event of a food-borne illness outbreak.”

Dissenting Judge Janice Rogers Brown criticized that the ruling means “a business owner no longer has a constitutionally protected right to refrain from speaking, as long at the government wants to use the company’s product to convey ‘purely factual and uncontroversial speech.’”

Check out this Law360 article which features a more in-depth analysis of the ruling and its potential implications and as always, visit Bryan Cave Digest for updates on developments in the field of food and beverage law.