September 29, 2019

Changes in Meat Labeling

FSIS seeks comments on CSPI petition to change meat labeling

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is currently welcoming comments on a petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) that calls for changes in how the FSIS regulates labeling for meat products. The petition calls for FSIS to prohibit the use of the statements “No Nitrate or Nitrite Added” and “Uncured” meat products processed using any sources of nitrates or nitrites, synthetic (such as sodium nitrite) or non-synthetic (such as celery powder).

Instead, the CSPI calls for the label “nitrates or nitrites added” to be added to these products in lettering at least half the size and prominence of the product name. CSPI would also like the source of nitrates or nitrites to be declared on the product label and for FSIS to take measure to minimize levels of residual nitrates and nitrites in these products.

In the petition, the CSPI writes that newer meat curing methods using non-synthetic sources of nitrates and nitrites have led consumers to believe cured meat is healthier than before and that labeling has caused confusion over what is actually in the products. “A wide variety of these newer meats now bear “No Nitrate or Nitrite Added” claims that mislead consumers to believe that the meats are nitrate- and nitrite-free,” writes CSPI.

According to the USDA, “FSIS is seeking comments on this petition and anticipates that it may receive a significant number of comments.”

Specifically, FSIS seeks comments addressing two main questions:

  • How should labels for products with synthetic nitrites be distinguished from labels for products with non-synthetic sources of nitrites, such as cultured celery powder?
  • Is there any data on how consumers perceive the descriptive designations “uncured” vs. “cured?”

The department has opened up online comment submission via the Federal eRulemaking portal at https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FSIS-2019-0022 and by mail or hand delivery. All comments must include the agency name and identification number FSIS-2019-0022. Comments should be submitted by Nov. 12, 2019.