Clear Labels Proposed for Raw Meat, Poultry

A new proposed rule from the Food Safety and Inspection Service would require labels clearly telling consumers when a raw meat or poultry product contains added solution.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) wants labels that clearly inform consumers when a raw meat or poultry product contains added solution, such as injections and marinades.

In a new proposed rule, FSIS said it believes consumers need the added information because right now, products with and without added solution can be labeled the same. Added solution is likely to affect consumers' purchasing decisions, and "the presence of added solutions affects the product's nutrition profile because there may be a significant difference in sodium content between a single-ingredient raw product and a similar-looking product containing added solution. The effect of excess sodium may be compounded if consumers unknowingly purchase a product with added solution, believe it to be a single-ingredient product, and add salt during preparation or prior to consumption," the agency said.

A typical label might say "chicken breast -- 40% added solution of water, salt and sodium phosphate."

The rule applies only to raw meat and poultry products that, after post-evisceration processing, have solution added. It does not apply to fully cooked or partially heat-treated products containing added solution, on the theory that consumers already know these are not single-ingredient products.

"Consumers should be able to make an informed choice in the store, which is why we need to provide clear, informative labels that will help consumers make the best decisions about feeding their families," said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. "It has become evident that some raw meat and poultry labels, even those that follow our current guidelines, may not be clear."

Comments will be accepted for 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register; to comment, search for Docket No. FSIS-2010-0012 at www.regulations.gov.

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