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USDA Announces Proposed Rule on Labeling Requirements for Added Solutions to Raw Meat and Poultry Products; AMI Calls Proposal 'Unnecessary' and 'Wasteful'

Thursday, July 21, 2011

(American Meat Institute)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today made publicly available a proposed labeling rule that creates new standards of identity for raw meat and poultry products to which solutions have been added. 
 
According to an FSIS press release, 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.”  In addition, the print on the label for such newly named products would be presented in the same font, size and color. 
 
The proposed rule is available at www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/Proposed_Rules/index.asp and will soon publish in the Federal Register.  Comments must be received on or before 60 days from publication in the Federal Register and may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov/
 
In response to the announcement of the proposed rule, American Meat Institute President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle issued the following statement: 
 
“President Obama in January wrote in the Wall Street Journal that regulatory initiatives should solve problems, not create new ones.  USDA’s new proposal to change the labeling of many raw meat and poultry products, while adding no new information not already required on the label, is both unnecessary and wasteful. 
 
“USDA has a long-established prior label approval system that requires government officials to reject false and misleading labels before they are applied to federally inspected meat and poultry products.  The labels that are the subject of this new, burdensome proposal have been in the marketplace for years with USDA approval.
 
“In order to ensure that consumers know that some ready-to-cook meat and poultry products contain added solutions, long-standing FSIS labeling regulations have required that these added solutions be identified on the front of the label contiguous to the identification of the product, such as chicken breasts or pork tenderloin, yet in a smaller and different font.  Simply stated, today’s proposal would make the font bigger and move it closer to the product’s name. 
 
“In other words, as an example, a package currently labeled 'CHICKEN BREASTS' with a qualifier in the package corner stating, 'Enhanced with up to 20% of a solution of water, salt and spices,' would be replaced with, 'CHICKEN BREASTS ENHANCED WITH UP TO 20% OF A SOLUTION OF WATER, SALT AND SPICES.'

USDA estimates the resulting redesign and reprinting of the current labels and packaging will cost $73 million.  As a result, the far more significant change on the label that consumers will notice will be the price of the product.  
 
“President Obama described his regulatory reform initiative as removing regulations ‘that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.’  This $73 million dollar label redesign and font size change very much evokes those words.” 

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