USDA Proposes Update to Meat, Poultry Labeling Rules

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By Casey Wooten

Dec. 1 — The USDA said it plans to update rules for labeling the nutrition content of meat and poultry products to better align with Food and Drug Administration labeling regulations released in May.

The Agriculture Department’s proposed rules issued Dec. 1 would revamp the nutrition labels for meat, poultry and eggs, changing both their appearance and content. The USDA said the new rules are necessary to ensure consistency in how nutrition information is presented across the food supply.

“This new rule will provide more transparency on nutrition labels so that American consumers can make informed decisions about the foods they eat and feed their families,” Alfred Almanza, deputy undersecretary for food safety at USDA, said in a statement.

The move comes amid uncertainty about whether the broad changes to nutrition facts and restaurant menu labeling rules put in place over the past few years will survive under the Donald Trump administration. Some Republican lawmakers have opposed the new disclosure requirements, calling them a regulatory overreach, and have introduced amendments to appropriations bills that would block them.

The USDA will take comments on the proposed rules for 60 days from when they are published in the Federal Register.

Nutrition, Lettering Changes

The proposed changes for meat and poultry labels track closely with the FDA labeling changes, which cover packaged food products and are set to go into effect in July 2018.

The USDA proposal would update the list of nutrients that are required or permitted to be declared. For example, the rule would remove the requirement to declare “calories from fat,” but require the declaration of “added sugars,” vitamin D and potassium, similar to the FDA rule.

The rule would also lower the value used for calculating the percentage of daily intake for sodium from 2,400 milligrams to 2,300 milligrams.

The USDA also said it planned to revise the appearance of its meat and poultry nutrition facts labels, increasing the letter size of the “calories,” “servings per container” and “serving size” sections, much like the FDA rules.

CSPI Calls for Warnings

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based consumer group, has long backed expanding the scope of nutrition facts labels, particularly the inclusion of an “added sugars” section.

In a Dec. 1 press release, CSPI called on regulators to take their efforts a step further. The group said the USDA should require a warning label on packages of bacon, ham, hot dogs, and other processed meat and poultry products, informing consumers about potential risks of colorectal cancer associated with the foods.

CSPI submitted a regulatory petition to the USDA asking for the labeling change.

“In light of the strong scientific evidence that the frequent consumption of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer, the agency must act decisively to require a label on processed meat stating that frequent consumption may increase the risk of colon and rectal cancer,” CSPI said in its petition.

To contact the reporter on this story: Casey Wooten in Washington at cwooten@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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