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American Meat Institute v. United States Department of Agriculture

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20173
Nos. 13-5281, (D.C. Cir., 07/29/2014)

The D.C. Circuit upheld USDA regulations mandating the disclosure of country-of-origin information about meat products. A group of trade associations representing livestock producers, feedlot operators, and meat packers claimed that the rule violated their First Amendment rights because the mandate requires them to disclose country-of-origin information to retailers, who will ultimately provide the information to consumers. In Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, 471 U.S. 626 (1985), a commercial speech case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that "[A]n advertiser’s rights are reasonably protected as long as disclosure requirements are reasonably related to the State’s interest in preventing deception of consumers." The decision requires the disclosures to be of “purely factual and uncontroversial information” about the good or service being offered. At issue in this case was whether the principles articulated in Zauderer apply more broadly to factual and uncontroversial disclosures required to serve other government interests. The court answered that question in the affirmative, holding that in addition to correcting deception, other government interests can be invoked to sustain a disclosure mandate under Zauderer. It further held that the interests invoked in this case were sufficient. The mandate, therefore, was upheld.