June 21, 2021

US beef organisation pushes for new labeling scheme


The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) in the United States has petitioned USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for a new labeling scheme for beef products.


The petition, assigned to the FSIS Office of Policy and Program Development, is being considered for rulemaking. It is the second petition received by FSIS this year.


The Denver-based NCBA wants to eliminate the so-called "Product of the USA" (POTUSA) and other labels that make broad claims about the origin of beef products as they are likely to mislead consumers.


"Single-ingredient beef product or ground beef may be labeled as "Processed in the USA", provided that such label displays all mandatory features in a prominent manner in compliance with Part 317 and is not otherwise false or misleading in any particular manner," the petition states. "All other claims relating to US origin, production or product processing are not eligible for generic approval, and FSIS acceptance of all such claims must be supported by adequate documentation. The requirements in this paragraph do not apply to products authorised for export by FSIS."


The petition also called for the promulgation of a federal rule to update current labeling standards in a way that will more accurately inform consumers. The recommended change continues to permit, without the need for any documentation or agency prior review, the voluntary use of the claim "Processed in the USA" on any federally inspected product.


More specific voluntary claims, such as "Raised and Harvested in the USA," would continue to require appropriate review, verification and oversight within the FSIS label approval system. Interested parties would also remain free to explore the development of related Process Verified Programs (PVPs) through alternative third-party certification mechanisms.


FSIS labeling standards are broadly permissive, allowing imported beef to be labeled as a "Product of the USA" if it undergoes minimal processing or repackaging in the United States.


The change sought by NCBA is not a request for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reinstate any form of MCOOL (Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling), according to the group. Instead, the organisation requests that the USDA updates current labeling practices to balance regulated stakeholder burden and necessary consumer disclosure more effectively.


By limiting generic labels to "Processed in the US", retailers and processers can label their products accurately without the added burden of tracking the product's origin, according to the petition.


"Not only would such a change increase the accuracy of labels, but likely grow the value of voluntary origin labeling programmes," NCBA said. "Producers who choose to trace their cattle through the supply chain should be fairly compensated for their effort."


The US government's general policy ensures that food offered for sale in interstate commerce does not bear false or misleading labels, NCBA added.


Modifying label regulations will better inform US consumers and open new marketing opportunities for producers, NCBA said.


- Food Safety News