FSIS Admits Its Policy for Product of USA Labeling is Misleading; Will Undertake Rulemaking

April 6, 2020By Riëtte van Laack

As readers of this blog may recall, the Food Safety Inspection Service of the USDA (FSIS) received two Petitions regarding the Product of USA Labeling for Meat Products. (See here and here for our blog posts).

In 2018, the Organization for Competitive Markets and the American Grassfed Association requested that FSIS revise its 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.”  More than a year later, the U.S. Cattlemen Association (USCA) submitted its own Petition, requesting that FSIS limit the Product of USA claims to products made from beef from cattle born, raised, and harvested in the United States.

On March 27, 2020, FSIS posted responses to both Petitions, here and here.

FSIS received more than 2500 comments to the 2018 Petition and more than 100 comments to USCA’s Petition. FSIS concluded that its current labeling policy permitting meat and poultry products that are derived from animals that may have been born, raised, and slaughtered in another country but processed in the United States to be labeled as “Product of USA,” may be causing confusion in the marketplace.  Nevertheless, FSIS denied the Petitions’ requests to amend the policy. Instead, FSIS decided that, considering the significant public interest, it needs an “open and transparent process,” and the more appropriate way to accomplish that would be through rulemaking.

The USCA requested that FSIS limit the Product of USA claim to beef from animals born, raised, and slaughtered in the USA.  However, based on concerns expressed that such policy change could potentially affect the integrated livestock supply chains between the United States and Canada, as well as the integrated cattle supply chain between the United States and Mexico, FSIS concluded that the better approach would be to allow the claim on products from animals that were slaughtered and processed in the United States without regard to where the source animals were born (and grown).  FSIS intends to propose a rule consistent with that conclusion.

FSIS did not provide a timeline for the rulemaking.