The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 that heralded the introduction of Nutrition Facts panels only applied to FDA-regulated foods, while meat and poultry were exempt from the new rules as they fell under the USDA’s remit. But despite a voluntary provision for labeling the nutritional content of meat products, the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) found that few meat producers were complying, leading it to propose mandatory labeling.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said: “More and more, busy American families want nutrition information that they can quickly and easily understand. We need to do all we can to provide nutrition labels that will help consumers make informed decisions. The USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services work hard to provide the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years, and now consumers will have another tool to help them follow these guidelines."
The nutrition information will be required to either appear on meat product labels or at the point of purchase, and will apply to whole raw cuts of meat and poultry, as well as ground or chopped meat or poultry.
Additionally, the FSIS said that consumers have become accustomed to the use of ‘percent lean’ on ground meat products, and as long as it is displayed alongside a product’s fat percentage it believes such labeling provides “a quick, simple, and accurate means of comparing ground or chopped meat and poultry products”.
The American Meat Institute’s president of regulatory affairs and general counsel Mark Dopp said that the 12-month implementation period would be challenging for industry, but added that mandatory labeling presents opportunities to educate consumers about the range of lean meats available, including some cuts of beef and pork.
“Many consumers don’t fully appreciate the nutrition value of meat and poultry and the many lean choices in the meat case,” Dopp said. “The new labels and point of purchase information may help correct some misconceptions.”
The final rule was published in the Federal Register on December 29 and is available online here .