USDA Delays Meat Nutrition Labeling Rule
Implementation for a mandatory meat nutrition label rule that was due to go into effect at the start of 2012 has been delayed until March 1 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
The two-month extension for the effective date of enforcement of the “Nutrition Labeling of Single-Ingredient Products and Ground or Chopped Meat and Poultry Products” final rule will provide retailers with a much-needed opportunity to properly implement and comply with the new requirements. The extension will also provide retailers with additional time to collect the necessary nutrition information from suppliers for 40 of the most popular cuts of meat and poultry products, either on the package labels or at the point-of-purchase, as specified by the forthcoming new meat labeling law.
A coalition of organizations representing food, agriculture and retail members, including the Food Marketing Institute, National Grocers Association, American Lamb Board, American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council and the National Turkey Federation, applauded FSIS’s announcement to delay the effective date.
“The mandatory nutrition labeling rule will have a significant impact on the regulated entities, and we commend FSIS for recognizing the challenges we face and for extending the effective date,” the coalition remarked. “When FSIS announced this final rule last December, we began working to understand the new requirements to ensure implementation. Over the past 11 months, we have worked with FSIS to fully understand the rule’s requirements, but we still have questions that need to be answered before a smooth implementation can occur.
“While we support efforts to educate consumers about the nutritional profile of meat and poultry products, it is crucial to get it right. Delaying the effective date for two months will give retailers and others in the food production chain additional time to implement labeling systems, to obtain necessary software and scales to properly label the products and to educate employees about the new requirements. We look forward to continuing to work with FSIS over the next five months to find the least disruptive and most cost-effective way to implement the rule.”
The nutrition facts panels are expected to include the number of calories and the grams of total fat and saturated fat a product contains. Additionally, any product that lists a lean percentage statement, such as “76% lean” on its label, will also list its fat percentage, which is intended to make it easier for consumers to understand the amounts of lean protein and fat in their purchase.