July 27, 2022

PETA submits petition about language used on meat packaging

PETA submits petition about language used on meat packaging

By: Sydney Sheffield

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) submitted a petition to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to begin the rulemaking process to eliminate its label-approval program for any labels relating to claims about the conditions in which animals were raised. PETA is claiming companies are taking advantage of the FSIS’ approval of claims for financial gain.

FSIS does not regulate the on-farm treatment of animals raised for meat and bases its approval of claims such as “humanely raised” or “raised in a stress-free environment” on the companies’ submissions, with no audit required. In December 2019, FSIS released a set of guidelines detailing the documentation required to substantiate animal raising claims for label submissions. 

The guidelines require companies to submit the following documentation for FSIS approval of labels bearing animal-raising claims:

·      A detailed written description explaining the controls used for ensuring that the raising claim is valid from birth to harvest, or the period of raising being referenced by the claim

·      A signed and dated document describing how the animals are raised which may include feed formulations (e.g., vegetarian fed, raised without antibiotics, grass-fed), to support that the specific claim made is truthful and not misleading

·      A written description of the product tracing and segregation mechanism from time of slaughter or further processing through packaging and wholesale or retail distribution

·      A written description for the identification, control, and segregation of nonconforming animals/product

·      If a third party certifies a claim, a current copy of the certificate from the certifying organization

Even with these requirements, PETA thinks the system is still being taken advantage of by companies. “By approving labels without confirming, or even the ability to confirm, the information supporting the claims, FSIS allows companies to make variable, unverifiable, and false claims, thus violating the statutory responsibility to ensure labels on meat products. they are not false or misleading,” PETA says in the petition. “With the agency’s approval, companies can then charge a surplus for “humanly” raised products, as the public is often willing to pay more for products that are believed to have been made without harming animals.”

PETA Foundation General Counsel for Animal Law Jared Goodman said in a press release, “The only ‘humane’ meal is a vegan one, and PETA is calling on the FSIS to stop giving the government’s stamp of approval to companies that tell well-intentioned consumers otherwise.”

While more develops regarding this petition, those in the animal agriculture community understand meat and animal products play a vital role in a healthy diet. FSIS has referred PETA’s petition to the Office of Policy and Program Development for review.