WASHINGTON – The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing a new rule that would end what the agency calls duplicative labeling requirements for some meat and poultry products.

During an April 9 regulatory update presentation at the North American Meat Institute’s 2019 Meat Industry Summit, FSIS Administrator Carmen Rottenberg said the dual labeling issue was a regulation she categorized as unnecessarily burdensome, and that a very small producer in Texas wrote to the agency asking why, for example, products weighing over 1 lb. are required to be labeled in pounds and ounces. “That’s an excellent question,” she admitted.

Carmen Rottenberg, FSIS Administrator

Rottenberg said that according to agency historians, the dual labeling regulation was originally intended to assist housewives who were preparing food and didn’t have access to conversion rates to adapt to the units used in various recipes. “There’s not a need to do that anymore so we’re going to be rescinding that dual weight requirement for FSIS-regulated products. We hope that FDA will follow suit on that and we’ve been in communication with them. It’s these kinds of things that you only find out when you ask producers,” she said.  The proposed amendment came after the agency received a petition by a small meat processor who was responding to the USDA’s request for ways to better serve the agency’s customers.

“Under proposed rule, establishments that produce meat and poultry products in packages containing 1 lb. or one pint and less than 4 lbs. or 1 gal. will be allowed to express the weight or contents in one unit of measurement on the product label, instead of using both measures [e.g., “Net Wt. 24 oz.” or “Net Wt. 1.5 lbs.” rather than “Net Wt. 24 oz. (1.5 lbs.)],” the agency explained.

In a statement, Rottenberg said, “It’s simply good government to review old regulations to see if they are outdated and burdensome. FSIS doesn’t believe that a duplicative labeling requirement helps consumers and sees it as an unnecessary requirement for industry.”

FSIS would allow processors to use their current labels until they run out or continue to use their current labels indefinitely.

The agency also is proposing changes to how it lists foreign countries eligible to export meat, poultry or egg products to the United States. Under the proposed new rule, FSIS would remove lists of foreign companies from the agency’s regulations and, instead, use lists posted to FSIS’ website. A reference to the web address would be included in the agency’s regulations in place of the lists.

“This change would allow FSIS to more efficiently provide the public with more accurate and up-to-date information,” the agency said. “The criteria FSIS uses to evaluate whether a foreign country is eligible to export meat, poultry or egg products would remain in the regulations and would not change. FSIS would continue to provide an opportunity for public comment when proposing to list new countries as eligible to export these products to the United States.”