USDA News: Nutrition Labels Coming Soon to a Single Ingredient Packaged Meat Product Near You

he end of last year marked a significant change in nutrition labeling guidelines when the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that 40 of the most popular cuts of meat and poultry packages will be required to contain nutrition facts labeling beginning January 1, 2012.

This final rule has been a long time coming. Current regulations already require (unless exemption applies) nutrition labels on multi-ingredient and heat processed meat and poultry. The issue of single-ingredient products was initially publicized by FSIS in a proposed rule back in January of 2001, which was followed by a supplemental proposed rule in December of 2009.

This new final rule specifically requires major cuts of single-ingredient, raw meat and poultry products (40 of the most popular cuts), to carry nutrition labeling either on the label or at the point of purchase. In addition, ground or chopped products are required to bear nutrition labeling directly on the label without the option of point-of-purchase labeling. Ground or chopped products include single-ingredient raw hamburger, ground beef, ground beef patties, ground chicken, ground turkey, ground chicken patties, ground pork and ground lamb.

The USDA inserted an interesting exclusion to the nutrition labeling rule for non-major cuts of single-ingredient, raw meat and poultry products that are not ground or chopped. The exact reason for this exclusion is unclear. FSIS merely states that “[t]he Agency has concluded that it is not necessary to do so at this time.”

The final rule also adds that ground and chopped products will also now be required to include a statement on the percentage of fat next to the statement of lean percentage so that consumers can understand “the amounts of lean protein and fat in their purchase.”

The final rule lists several exemptions from nutrition labeling including exemptions for products intended for further processing, products not for sale to consumers, products in small packages, products that are custom slaughtered or prepared, or products intended for export. One notable distinction is that ground or chopped products (not major cuts) may qualify for a small business exemption if they meet specific requirements.

The final rule states that, “[n]utrition labeling continues to be an integral part of USDA’s efforts to educate consumers concerning nutrition and diets.” While the USDA certainly cannot make people care about what they eat, this new rule will certainly make it easier for those individuals who do care, to educate themselves about what they are consuming in their diet.

Source: Fed. Reg., Vol 75, No. 249, Wednesday, December 29, 2010 / Rules and Regulations, Final Rule, Nutrition labeling of Single-Ingredient Products and Ground or Chopped Meat and Poultry Products

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