WASHINGTON – The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Department of Agriculture recently announced that it plans to extend a new rule to address processed meat labeling when it comes to “No Nitrate or Nitrite Added” and “Uncured” on products.

“FSIS intends to conduct rulemaking to propose to prohibit the statements, ‘No Nitrate or Nitrite Added’ and ‘Uncured,’ on products that have been processed using any source of nitrates or nitrites,” the agency said in a letter on Dec. 10. “FSIS also intends to approve non-synthetic sources of nitrates or nitrites as curing agents.”

In August 2019, The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the USDA to label processed meat and poultry products with celery powder or other non-synthetic ingredients that contain nitrates or nitrites and still making a claim on the label that they do not have those products.

Currently the agency does not allow companies to make this claim when using synthetic nitrates/nitrites.

The FSIS said later in its letter that “rather than requiring disclosure statements about the use of nitrate or nitrites on labels of meat and poultry products, as requested in the petition, FSIS intends to propose to amend and clarify its meat and poultry labeling regulations to establish new definitions for ‘Cured’ and ‘Uncured.’”  

CSPI released a response to the news on Dec. 11 regarding the news from the USDA and FSIS.

“When consumers see a claim like ‘no nitrates added’ on meat, they think the product is healthier,” said Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at CSPI. “A lot of us are surprised to find out that a healthy food like celery can be extensively processed to make the same compounds in the body as synthetic nitrites do when eaten. Removing the ‘no nitrates’ claims will help, but without a clear disclosure many consumers are not going to recognize that these meats are processed with nitrates and nitrites.”