The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) unveiled a long-awaited final rule, Nutrition Labeling of Single-Ingredient Products and Ground or Chopped Meat and Poultry Products.
The rule, which has been 10 years in the making, will publish in tomorrow’s Federal Register and will take effect January 1, 2012.
The rule amends federal meat and poultry product regulations to require nutrition labeling of the major cuts of single ingredient, raw meat and poultry products on labels or at point of-purchase, and to require nutrition labels on all ground or chopped meat and poultry products, with or without added seasonings, unless the products are exempted.
Specifically, the rule requires retailers to provide nutrition information for “major” cuts of meat and poultry either on the label or at point-of-purchase (POP). “Nonmajor” cuts of single-ingredient, raw products are not required to bear nutrition labeling, but if plants or retailers voluntarily provide nutrition information for non major cuts, that information will have to comply with the requirements for the major cuts.
Nutrition information will also be required for ground meat and poultry products but, unlike whole muscle cuts, ground products will be required to bear nutrition labeling on their packages, unless exempted.
The rule also establishes parameters for nutrient content claims for fat, fatty acids and cholesterol content, stating that a lean percentage claim may be used on the label or in labeling of ground or chopped meat products when the product does not meet the criteria for “low fat,” provided that a statement of the fat percentage is contiguous to and in lettering of the same color, size, type and on the same color background, as the statement of the lean percentage.
Point-of-purchase (POP) information can be provided by various methods, including posting a sign or by making the information readily available in brochures, notebooks, or leaflet form in close proximity to the food. The information may be supplemented by video, live demonstration, or other media. Making a nutrition claim on POP requires that all of the regulatory requirements regarding format and content apply. In addition, for POP materials, a nutrition information declaration may be presented in a simplified format.
Failure to provide nutrition information in accord with the rule renders a product misbranded, according to the rule.
In response, AMI Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Mark Dopp said he was “disappointed” by the 12 month implementation period, noting that it presents major challenges for retail customers. AMI had sought an 18-month implementation period.
At the same time, however, Dopp said that the new labeling requirements present unique opportunities for the industry to educate customers.
“Many consumers don’t fully appreciate the nutrition value of meat and poultry and the many lean choices in the meat case. The new labels and point of purchase information may help correct some misconceptions,” he said.
For example, he said that skinless, boneless chicken breasts are widely recognized as lean with 165 calories and 3.57 grams of fat per 100-gram serving, but many consumers don’t know that there are many lean pork and beef cuts that offer similar, good nutrition. A serving of beef eye of round roast has 166 calories and 4.87 grams of total fat and a serving of pork tenderloin has 143 calories and 3.51 grams of fat.
“I think there may be some pleasant surprises for many consumers in the meat case,” Dopp added. “In addition to helping consumers compare meat and poultry cuts, the labels will also help showcase the high protein, vitamin and mineral value in all meat and poultry products,” Dopp added.