MEXICO CITY --A Mexican suspension of U.S. meat imports is "only temporary" and occurred for technical reasons, not food-safety issues or retaliatory reasons, Mexican meat importers said Friday.
Meat importers and other industry officials told Dow Jones Newswires that U.S. fears that the decision to ban imports from about 30 U.S. meat plants was in retaliation against a new U.S. country-of-origin labeling law, which Mexico has objected to, were ungrounded.
"The good news is that this is not a [sanitary] problem," an official with a meat importer said. "It's all about a communications problem over the new COOL regulation, which really has nothing to do with the ban on these plants," the official said.
U.S. livestock markets were ripe with rumors Friday that Mexico had suspended meat purchases from the plants over the new labeling law and food-safety concerns, and Chicago hog futures ended the session lower.
"The Mexican government has temporarily issued a ban on imports from these plants because they were shipping meat in bulk of over 50 kilograms, and that's against the Mexican regulations for meat shipments," said a person close to the Mexican Meat Industry Council.
The Mexican government earlier this month joined Canada at the World Trade Organization in seeking consultations with the U.S. over the new COOL labeling law for agricultural and livestock products. Mexico thinks the new law could hurt its livestock exports and could be in violation of WTO rules.
Under the new COOL rules, which went into effect Sept. 30 and apply to beef, pork, chicken, fish and seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables, peanuts and pecans, only meat from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. can be labeled as a product of the U.S.
Mexico fears the measure will generate discrimination against Mexican products, since the U.S. consumer will prefer products labeled as originating in the U.S., the Mexican Economy Ministry said.
-By Maja Wallengren, Dow Jones Newswires; firstname.lastname@example.org