Meat groups fighting for corporate free-speech rights will lock horns with government regulators as US court hears, yet again, a case over country-of-origin meat labeling requirements.
The US Court of Appeals in Washington on Friday dismissed a March 28 ruling by three judges, which affirmed labeling requirements by the Department of Agriculture. An 11-judge panel at the court of appeal will re-hear the case with the view of establishing whether regulators can require labeling that fixes deception such as misleading advertisement or if they can demand provision of information that can help with objectives such as clear consumer confusion, according to Bloomberg.
Under the regulations being challenged and which became fully enforceable in November, meat producers are required to include on meat labels an animal’s place of birth, raising and slaughter. Products for retail sale cannot have mix muscle cuts in the same package under general labeling.
The American Meat Institute and other meat groups argue that country-of-origin labeling requirements make it unavoidable for producers to separate animals and in the end raise production costs.
The opponents of regulation also argue that regulators do not have a solid basis to take away their rights for free speech and have them supply information against their will, a contention that judges at the appeals court rejected. They say the requirements are against provisions of the First Amendment.
“Admittedly, there’s consumer curiosity. But we don’t feel that rises to the level of a compelling government interest,” said Mark Dopp, lawyer of the meat institute, adding that they saw no justification for the labeling rules.
The Consumer Federation of America supported the labeling mandate, arguing that the rule’s intention to reduce consumer confusion was sufficient basis to require factual labeling on product’s packages.
As CalgaryHerald reports, both parties have been asked by the court to make their submissions while addressing the First Amendment issues being debated.
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