Label law not behind Mexico-U.S. meat issue - USDA

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WASHINGTON, Dec 26 (Reuters) - The U.S. Agriculture Department has been working with Mexican authorities and U.S. meat shippers to resolve concerns about shipments from certain U.S. meat plants, a spokeswoman said on Friday.

But Mexico's suspension of purchases from 30 U.S. meat plants was not done to retaliate against the U.S. country-of-origin labeling law, known as COOL, said Amanda Eamich of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Earlier on Friday, traders had speculated the action was due to the new labeling law, which requires U.S. retailers to indicate where animals were raised.

Mexican officials later denied that charge, and said the suspension was due to packaging and other sanitary issues, and could be resolved by Monday.

"Speculation by traders reported ... about COOL would not be accurate," Eamich said in a statement.

"Countries would go through dispute settlement under either (the North American Free Trade Agreement) or (World Trade Organization) -- not use the action of plant-by-plant delistment," Eamich said.

Mexico recently joined with Canada in a WTO challenge of the new labeling law because they say it deters U.S. packers from importing livestock. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Marguerita Choy) (; Reuters Messaging:; 202 898 8376))