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U.S. lawmakers scrap nationalist meat labeling laws

WASHINGTON, June 10 (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to repeal meat labeling laws, which were widely backed by U.S. consumer groups, after Canada and Mexico threatened $3 billion in trade sanctions.

The House voted 300-131 to repeal country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rules on beef, pork and poultry, after the World Trade Organization ruled they discriminated against imported meat.

If the laws are not reversed, the U.S. could face costly retaliation from its closest trading partners. Canada wants to impose just over C$3 billion ($2.4 billion) in sanctions on U.S. imports while Mexico is looking for $653 million worth of punitive measures.

Business groups urged the Senate to act swiftly to repeal the law. The chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Pat Roberts, said he was continuing to take suggestions from colleagues but thought repeal was the best option.

"We can sit here and let this happen. Or we can move. Let’s get a move on," he said in a statement.

Some of the biggest U.S. food and beverage companies, including Pepsico Inc, Tyson Foods Inc, the U.S. arm of Nestlé, Coca-Cola Co, Anheuser-Busch and Kraft Foods, wrote to lawmakers this week urging them to support the repeal.

Under the regulations, U.S. meat carries labels such as "Born, Raised and Slaughtered in the United States", compared with labels such as, "Born in Mexico, Raised and Slaughtered in the United States."

Meat labels became mandatory in the United States in March 2009 after years of debate. U.S. consumer groups and some farm groups supported the requirement, saying shoppers should have information to be able to distinguish between U.S. and foreign products. ($1 = 1.2278 Canadian dollars)

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