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Should he World Trade Organization dictate labeling requirements for our food?

Updated on May 20, 2016

The recent news from the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding the labeling of our food specifically beef to identify the country of origin has prompted Congress to consider removing this requirement. While we have a global economy the safety of our food is paramount. We as individuals have a right to know the country where the food we are purchasing in grocery stores originates. This not only includes where it is from but how it is processed. The House of Representatives has passed legislation to remove this requirement and it is now up to the Senate to consider the proposed legislation. It is hoped that the Senate will reject this proposed legislation as it should to protect each of us from health related issues. The quality of the food we purchase affects our health.

The issue came up from reports in the news that Canada and Mexico won a case at the WTO which presented a case that we were discriminating against their beef. Though they appear to have won the case it does not mean the United States should alter the labeling requirement for beef based on complaints from other countries. Our health standards and regulations are there to protect the health of all citizens or at least let us make a decision if we want to buy beef originating from foreign countries.

It is a known fact that our food laws and regulations are among the strongest or the strongest in the world to protect the health of all citizens and visitors within our borders. We have a right to know where our food originates just like we have a right to know where the toys we purchase originate for our children. We have seen incidents in the past where there were safety problems with some toys and were recalled. There have been problems with beef in the past if requirements to identify the country of origin are removed how can we know what action needs to be taken if we do not know the country of origin. The labeling requirement should stay in place.

The Food and Drug Administration dictates the labeling requirements on our food not the WTO. This department has this responsibility and the current requirements in most cases are appropriate if not all of them. While Congress has the responsibility to make changes that can affect the function and responsibilities of each of the Executive Departments/agencies the Senate should reject this legislation.

There are two important questions to be answered. The first involves whether the WTO has the authority to dictate labeling requirements for food coming into our country. The answer to this question is clearly no. The second question to be answered is that the labeling of toys for our children require where the toys are made and processed. The safety of our children is important and so should our food.


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