USDA proposes rule for simplified ‘generic’ label claims

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety, Proposal, Consumer protection

USDA proposes rule for simplified ‘generic’ label claims
The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has proposed rule to make it easier for manufacturers to make generic label claims such as ‘Italian Style’ or ‘Low Fat’ on meat and poultry products.

The agency said that simplifying the process would allow it to allocate its resources to other consumer protection and food safety activities, while lessening the burden of current regulations on smaller firms in particular.

The rule would mean that a food manufacturer making pepperoni pizza that carries no special label claims, for example, would not need to resubmit details of its packaging to the FSIS for approval when it makes minor formulation changes. All mandatory label features would still need to comply with FSIS regulations, the agency said.

“It is important that we make the labeling process more effective and efficient, while still ensuring consumers have the best information available when shopping for food,”​ said Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, Undersecretary for Food Safety at the Department of Agriculture.

If the rule becomes final, food manufacturers would be able to label a broader range of products without first submitting the labels to the FSIS for approval, and new products would be able to get to the marketplace sooner.

The new process is expected to be more convenient and cost-effective, meaning that smaller manufacturers would benefit in particular, the agency said.

“Under the proposal, FSIS will continue to verify that labels are accurate, not misleading, and in compliance with all labeling features,”​ it said.

The FSIS added that allergen labeling for meat and poultry products is done on a voluntary basis, and said that manufacturers are already applying the labeling in accordance with the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act – and therefore it has no intention to formally regulate allergen labeling.

The proposed rule is open for industry comments until February 3, 2012 by mail or online at www.regulations.gov​.

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