The 10th circuit affirms the removal of the suit on the label ‘Product of the United States’

cattle on a farm

Beef cattle are grazed in Brazil.

A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 to affirm the dismissal of a case brought by cattle ranchers over allegations of mislabeling beef as “Product of the United States.”

Collective action litigation brought by the ranchers Robin Thornton and Michael Lucero on behalf of a beef consumer group against Tyson Foods, Cargill Meat Solutions, JBS Food Company USA and National Beef Packing Company. The plaintiffs argued that it was unfair to label beef as “product of the United States” when the cattle involved were raised overseas and brought only to the United States for slaughter.

As a lawyer Blair Dunn explaining the matter in oral arguments, cattle are brought to American soil, where they stand for a few minutes or hours, “Then they still get the same label, even though they don’t actually breathe a lot of the air here in this country, or eat a lot of the food here.” In contrast, that label allows for high priced “American” beef—an illegal scam under New Mexico law.

However, the central legal issue of the appeal is whether plaintiffs have the right to bring misleading labeling claims in their state when the respondent’s actions comply with applicable laws. of the federal. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for 10th Street upheld the lower court’s decision, which ruled that the plaintiffs’ arguments were preceded by federal law, as it was desirable to create standards “different from those approved by the Department of Food Safety and Inspection Service because of compliance with the Federal Meat Inspection Act. ”

Circuit evaluation Nancy MoritzOne Barack Obama appointee, author of Opinions are 21 pages long, was joined by Mr. George W. Bush who is appointed as the Chief Executive Officer Timothy Tymkovich. Moritz rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that New Mexico State law and federal law were sufficiently distinct to allow a claim of mislabelling state law to continue even if the defendants complied with USDA regulations. . Moritz wrote:

To summarize, each of the plaintiff’s state-law labeling claims — unjust enrichment, warranty violation, UPA violation, and state antitrust violation — attempts to establish a labeling claim. other than requirements imposed by USDA and FSIS and approved by federal law.

However, Moritz’s comments are not without criticism of current labeling standards. She points out that those standards are a recent change that causes extremely serious problems:

Notably, this permissive interpretation of what qualifies as “Product of the United States” is not always the regulatory standard; Between 2008 and 2015, Congress took a more restrictive approach to country of origin labeling. Specifically, in 2008, Congress implemented a new law establishing four types of country of origin labeling: U.S. origin, multiple country origin, import for immediate slaughter, and foreign country of origin. . But the new law has given rise to years-long international trade problems with Canada and Mexico, including two disputes before the World Trade Organization and more than $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs imposed on China. USA.

Circuit evaluation Carlos Lucero (One Bill Clinton appointees unrelated to plaintiffs with the same surname) dissent, in what he humorously called, “a confusing question of statutory interpretation.” Lucero wrote that Congress could not have intended to repeal the state’s regulation of counterfeit and misleading meat labeling, arguing that the existing statute “clearly creates concurrent state jurisdiction.” with federal regulations.

Lucero called the case “a prime example of the trade-off between federal and congressional intent” in enacting the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA). He continued, arguing that if consumers are indeed misled by the “Product of the United States” label, that label violates both FMIA and USDA regulations. Against this backdrop, Lucero writes, “Congress certainly could not have intended to rubber-stamp deceptively about the national origin of beef.”

Attorneys for the parties did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[Image via Mario Tama/Getty Images]

Is there a trick we should know? [email protected] The 10th circuit affirms the removal of the suit on the label ‘Product of the United States’

James Brien

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