FSIS Invites Comments on Petition Regarding Product of USA Labeling for Meat and Meat Products

July 3, 2018By Riëtte van Laack

On June 22, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced the receipt of a Petition by the Organization for Competitive Markets and the American Grassfed Association to revise FSIS’s policy on “Product of USA” claims so that only U.S. domestic meat and meat products under FSIS jurisdiction can be labeled “Product of U.S.A.”

Under current FSIS policy, described in the FSIS Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book, a “[l]abeling may bear the phrase ‘Product of U.S.A.’” under one of two conditions:

  1. If the country to which the product is exported requires this phrase, and the product is processed in the U.S., or
  2. The product is processed in the U.S. (i.e., is of domestic origin).

Petitioners argue that the current policy allows foreign meat to be imported into the United States and bear the label “Product of U.S.A.” if it simply passes through an FSIS-inspected plant. Petitioners claim that this policy leads to violations of FSIS’s own policies and regulations that prohibit false or misleading labeling and practices.  Moreover, this policy appears to conflict with the Federal Meat Inspection Act’s prohibition on false or misleading labeling, as well as an FSIS regulation that provides that no product shall be labeled so as to give a false indication of origin. Further, Petitioners claim that the current labeling policy “can lead to the disguising of the true origin of the meat and meat products and allows foreign interests and multi-national corporations to take advantage of increased U.S. market opportunities. This can allow for an unfair market advantage for foreign meat and meat products that not only deceives the consumer, but it financially harms U.S. family farmers and independent ranchers.”

The Petitioners ask that FSIS revert to its policy as it stood in 1985. Back then, it was not enough for a product to merely be processed in the U.S. but required  a determination that “significant ingredients having a bearing on consumer preference, such as meat, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, etc., are of domestic origin” Anticipating a large number of comments, FSIS has opened a docket on regulations.gov where comments may be submitted.  Comments should be submitted by August 17, 2018.