Nutritional Labeling for Raw Meat and Poultry Products Coming to you January 1, 2012

January 6, 2011

By Riëtte van Laack

More than 9 years after issuing a proposed rule, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (“FSIS”) published the final rule for nutrition labeling of single-ingredient meat and poultry products, as well as ground and chopped meat and poultry products.  Starting January 1, 2012 (FSIS’s uniform compliance date for new food labeling regulations issued between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2010), major cuts of single-ingredient, raw meat and poultry products are required to carry nutritional information on labels or at point-of-purchase (“POP”).  All raw ground and chopped meat and poultry products, with or without seasoning, must carry nutrition labels. 

The new rule allows POP nutritional information for major cuts because the nutrient content of a major cut is relatively uniform and because consumers can generally estimate the fat content in major cuts.  Thus, consumers can easily find the applicable information for the cut.  Manufacturers need not perform any analyses to determine the nutrient content of the major cuts, but may use data from USDA’s National Nutrient Data Bank or the USDA’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.  FSIS will use these same data to determine compliance with the regulations.  No nutritional information is required for non-major cuts of single-ingredient, raw meat and poultry products. However, if a manufacturer voluntarily provides nutritional information for these products, then they must comply with the regulation for the major cuts.
In contrast, raw ground and chopped products, such as hamburger, ground beef, ground beef patties, ground chicken, ground turkey, chicken, ground pork, and ground lamb must carry a nutritional label on the package.  Producers can precisely formulate these products to a specific fat content.  The fat is uniformly distributed throughout the ground product making it difficult for consumers to determine and compare the level of fat in these products.   POP nutritional information is not a viable alternative because there are numerous formulations of ground and chopped products; it would be difficult if not impossible for producers or retailers to develop POP materials that address all different formulations. Moreover, if POP nutritional information were provided, it would be difficult for consumers to find the correct information for a specific ground or chopped product. 

The nutritional information to be provided under the regulation is similar to that required by FDA for other foods.  However, unlike FDA, FSIS does not require labeling of trans fat content.  In addition, because raw meat products typically have random weights, the regulations do not require inclusion of the number of servings per container.

Numerous exemptions apply, including an exemption for ground or chopped products that qualify for the small business exemption, i.e., products produced by a facility that employs less than 500 people and produces no more than 100,000 lbs per year of a particular product. Note, however, that the small business exemption does not apply to nutritional labeling requirements for major cuts of single ingredient raw meat and poultry products because it is relatively easy to prepare point-of-purchase materials for these products. Moreover, FSIS will make POP materials available over the internet free of charge.

FSIS intends to conduct webinars on the final rule.

Categories: Foods