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Generic Approvals of Meat and Poultry Product Labels Expanded

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has issued a final rule that, effective Jan. 6, 2014, will amend the meat and poultry products inspection regulations to expand the circumstances in which the FSIS will generically approve the labels of meat and poultry products.

FSIS regulations interpreting the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act require USDA to approve all labels used on federally inspected and passed, and imported, meat and poultry products before they are distributed in commerce. FSIS conducts a prior approval program under which it evaluates sketches of labels for approval, but it also grants generic label approval if all mandatory label features are in conformance with FSIS regulations. Labels deemed approved under the latter program may be applied to product in accordance with the prior label approval system.

FSIS is now expanding the circumstances in which it will generically approve the labels of meat and poultry products. Highlights of the provisions of this rule include the following.

- Establishments are required to submit for evaluation only certain types of labeling; e.g., labels for temporary approval, labels for products produced under religious exemption, labels for products for export with labeling deviations, and labels with claims and special statements (e.g., claims relating to a product’s nutrient content or statements that identify a product as organic or containing organic ingredients). FSIS will continue to require the submission of such labels because they are more likely to present significant policy issues that have health or economic significance.

- Statements on labels that are defined in FSIS’s regulations or the Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book, except for “natural” and negative claims, may be generically approved without being submitted for evaluation and approval. Such claims may include statements that characterize a product’s nutrient content consistent with the applicable FSIS regulation (e.g., “low fat”), that has geographical significance (e.g., “Italian Style”), or that makes a country of origin statement on the label of any meat or poultry product covered commodity.

- Allergen statements applied in accordance with the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, as well as labels bearing a child nutrition box,  will not be considered a special statement or claim that requires sketch approval.

- Once this rule becomes effective, labels that do not qualify for generic approval will receive first priority for review. Labels that do qualify for generic approval will receive a lower or second priority.

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