Mexico Rejects Grassley's Charge That MCOOL Was Behind Meat Trade Ban

January 1, 2009 06:00 PM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Mexico stepping up sanitary controls

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

Mexican officials have denied Sen. Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) accusations that temporarily halted meat imports from around 30 U.S. meat plants was a retaliation against the U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL) policy.

“I believe it is directly related,” said Grassley. “I don’t know how serious they are about it, but they have cut off imports of meat from certain plants. And so we’ll have to look into it. The bright line is that when you interfere with the production of food, it’s got to be based upon science and not on politics.”

A U.S.-based Mexican official familiar with the trade issue said there was no connection between the import ban and labeling policy and said that the situation was being politicized, according to the Congressional Quarterly (CQ). The official said Mexican inspectors at the border determined that products from the specified plants were not up to sanitary standards agreed to by both countries. Some had been improperly frozen, emitted a bad odor or contained hair, he said.

The official said that Mexico is working in good faith to relist all the U.S. meat plants.

Mexico has filed a challenge with the World Trade Organization (WTO), contending the country-of-origin rules violate free trade agreements. Mexican officials said they are waiting for the U.S. to respond to their concerns about the requirements. Mexico filed a request for consultation with the United States, contending that the new requirements “appear to nullify or impair the benefits accruing to Mexico under those [free trade] agreements.”

Grassley said Mexico’s WTO complaint is baseless. “We get T-shirts from Guatemala or maybe even from Mexico that are labeled “Made in Mexico,” Grassley said, according to CQ. “So what difference does it make if the food is labeled as being — coming from Mexico?”

Mexican Agriculture Minister Alberto Cardenas recently his government was stepping up sanitary controls to keep contaminated meat out of Mexico. "We are strengthening our system. There are more public funds now than ever to invest in specialists, laboratories and set up a network of controls at ports, airports," Cardenas said at a news conference.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


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