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USDA proposes rule to enhance poultry and meat content labelling

The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is proposing a new rule to establish common, easy-to-understand names for raw meat and poultry products that include injections, marinades, or have otherwise incorporated added solutions which may not be visible to the consumer.

FSIS has determined that some labels do not clearly identify if a solution has been added to a raw product to enhance flavour or texture. As a result, consumers may be purchasing raw meat and poultry products with higher sodium content than they realise. The agency invites comments on the proposed rule, which is intended to clarify these products' labels so consumers can easily distinguish them from raw meat and poultry that do not contain added solutions.

"Consumers should be able to make an informed choice in the store, which is why we need to provide clear, informative labels that will help consumers make the best decisions about feeding their families," said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. "It has become evident that some raw meat and poultry labels, even those that follow our current guidelines, may not be clear."

Currently, raw meat and poultry products that contain added solutions such as water, teriyaki sauce, salt, or a mixture thereof may have the same name on their labels as products that do not contain added solutions. For example, a single-ingredient chicken breast and a chicken breast with added solution both may be labelled as "chicken breast," even though one package contains purely chicken breast and one may be comprised of 60% chicken breast and 40% solution. While the label of the chicken breast with added solution must state that it contains solution, consumers may not notice such information if it is not a part of the product's name. An example of a product name under the proposed rule would be: "chicken breast – 40% added solution of water and teriyaki sauce."

The agency has tentatively concluded that, without specific, clear, and conspicuous information about the percentage of added solution incorporated into the product, the labelling of these raw meat or poultry products is likely to mislead consumers. The proposed rule would require that the common or usual name of these products include an accurate description of the raw meat or poultry component, the percentage of added solution, and the individual or multi-ingredient components in the added solution. The print for such labels would be presented in a font, size, and colour that are easily visible to consumers.

The proposed rule has been posted on the FSIS website and soon will publish in the Federal Register.

Source: USDA

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