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FSIS Issues Interim Final Rule On Label Approval

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today issued an interim final rule amending its regulations to provide that, to receive approval by FSIS, any label for a meat or poultry product that is a covered commodity, as defined by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) interim final rule on country of origin labeling (COOL), must comply with that interim final rule.

AMS issued an interim final rule addressing mandatory COOL on August 1, 2008, and covers muscle cuts of beef (including veal), lamb, chicken, goat and pork and ground beef, ground lamb, ground chicken, ground goat and ground pork; perishable agricultural commodities (fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables); peanuts; pecans, ginseng and macadamia nuts – as required by the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. FSIS is not amending its regulations or labeling policies for meat or poultry products that are non-covered commodities.

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FSIS is also amending its regulations to provide that the addition of a COOL statement on labels for meat and poultry product covered commodities that are to be sold by retailers and that comply with the AMS' interim final rule will be generically approved. Currently, Federal meat and poultry product inspection regulations require COOL statements on the labels of immediate containers for imported products.

The FSIS interim final rule will be effective on Sept. 30, 2008. To allow time for covered commodities that are already in the chain of commerce to clear the system, the requirements of this rule will not apply to covered commodities produced or packaged before that date.

In accordance with the AMS interim final rule, any meat or poultry commodity that is an ingredient in a processed food item is excluded from mandatory COOL. Examples of such processed food items excluded from COOL labeling include meatloaf, breaded chicken tenders or sausage.

AMS' interim final regulations prescribe specific criteria that must be met for a covered commodity to bear a "United States country of origin" declaration. In addition, the regulations contain provisions for labeling covered commodities of foreign origin, meat products from multiple origins, ground meat products, as well as commingled covered commodities.