The Agriculture Department agency tasked with ensuring that food products are correctly labeled is set to update the definitions of some of the most common terms used by meat and poultry producers.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released Sept. 30 a list of proposed definitions for animal raising labels such as “grass fed,” “organic,” “free range,” “raised without antibiotics” and others, an update from its 2002 guidelines. Labels bearing animal raising claims are required to be approved by FSIS before they are used by producers.
The decision comes as food labeling takes center stage in agriculture policy. Earlier this year, Congress passed and the president signed a sweeping labeling law for ingredients made with genetically modified organisms.
The USDA is in the process of drafting rules implementing the new GMO labeling law, while the FDA may soon release a long-awaited definition of the term “natural.”
As part of the new guidance, the grass-fed label can only be applied to livestock that were fed grass for the lifetime of the animal after being weaned from their mother’s milk. Their diet must be solely derived from foraging and the animals must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.
Producers will also need to submit to the USDA a detailed description explaining controls used to ensure that the animal is raised solely on grass, as well as a description of how grass-fed livestock are separated from the their grain-fed counterparts.
For almost 10 years, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service had overseen a voluntary labeling program for the grass-fed label, but the agency withdrew its standard earlier this year, saying that labeling regulations were under the authority of the FSIS. Several farm groups called on the FSIS to draft a replacement standard.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition praised the agency’s decision to clarify the grass-fed labeling rules.
“We are pleased that FSIS has clarified through this guidance that any label claim using the term ‘grassfed’ must meet a 100 percent grassfed standard,” NSAC Policy Director Ferd Hoefner, said in a statement. “Taking this action was necessary to preserve the label’s strong reputation, and we applaud FSIS’ swift response to producer and consumer concerns following AMS’ withdrawal of the standard earlier this year.”
The FSIS guidance extends beyond the grass-fed standard. Pasture-grown, free-roaming and meadow-raised animals need to have access to the outdoors for a minimum of 120 days a year, and their owners must provide to the USDA a detailed, written explanation of how their facility ensures the animals are raised consistent to the claims, FSIS said.
The public comment period for the FSIS guidance will run until Dec. 5.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)