USDA Proposes Better Meat Labels

The Food Safety and Inspection Service hopes a new rule will make labels on packaged meats more clear when it comes to added solutions such as injections and marinades.

Packaged meats may soon be relabeled to help the consumer keep track of the additives processors include in the meat, such as salt, water and marinades.

Packaged meats may soon be relabeled to help the consumer keep track of the additives processors include in the meat, such as salt, water and marinades.

iStockphoto.com/luoman

Content Tools

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is proposing a new rule to establish common, easy-to-understand names for raw meat and poultry products that include injections, marinades, or have otherwise incorporated added solutions that may not be visible to the consumer. FSIS has determined that some labels do not clearly identify if a solution has been added to a raw product to enhance flavor or texture. As a result, consumers may be purchasing raw meat and poultry products with higher sodium content than they realize. The agency invites comments on the proposed rule, which is intended to clarify these products’ labels so consumers can easily distinguish them from raw meat and poultry that do not contain added solutions.

“Consumers should be able to make an informed choice in the store, which is why we need to provide clear, informative labels that will help consumers make the best decisions about feeding their families,” says Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “It has become evident that some raw meat and poultry labels, even those that follow our current guidelines, may not be clear.”

Currently, raw meat and poultry products that contain added solutions such as water, teriyaki sauce, salt, or a mixture thereof may have the same name on their labels as products that do not contain added solutions. For example, a single-ingredient chicken breast and a chicken breast with added solution both may be labeled as “chicken breast,” even though one package contains purely chicken breast and one may be comprised of 60 percent chicken breast and 40 percent solution. While the label of the chicken breast with added solution must state that it contains solution, consumers may not notice such information if it is not a part of the product’s name. An example of a product name under the proposed rule would be: “chicken breast – 40% added solution of water and teriyaki sauce.”

The agency has tentatively concluded that, without specific, clear and conspicuous information about the percentage of added solution incorporated into the product, the labeling of these raw meat or poultry products is likely to mislead consumers. The proposed rule would require that the common or usual name of these products include an accurate description of the raw meat or poultry component, the percentage of added solution, and the individual or multi-ingredient components in the added solution. The print for such labels would be presented in a font, size and color that are easily visible to consumers.

The proposed rule is posted on the FSIS website and also will be published in the Federal Register. Comments must be received on or before 60 days from publication in the Federal Register and may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, or by mail to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FSIS Docket Clerk, Room 2-2127, George Washington Carver Center, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Mailstop 5272, Beltsville, MD 20705. All comments must identify FSIS and docket number FSIS-2010-0012.