The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (F.S.I.S.) on Dec. 1 unveiled a proposal to amend its nutrition labeling requirements for meat and poultry products so they align with and complement the Food and Drug Administration’s final rules relating to nutrition labeling, which were published May 27. The F.S.I.S. said its proposed rule will improve the presentation of nutrition information to assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices.
“This new rule will provide more transparency on nutrition labels so that American consumers can make informed decisions about the food they eat and feed their families,” said Alfred V. Almanza, deputy undersecretary for food safety at the U.S.D.A. and acting administrator of the F.S.I.S. “The new Nutrition Facts Panel will complement the many other proactive, prevention-based food policies that we’ve put in place in recent years.”
The 430-page proposal was submitted to the Federal Register for publication. Its publication will mark the beginning of a 60-day period for public comment.
In the executive summary of the proposal, the F.S.I.S. noted current labeling regulations for meat and poultry products include requirements regarding location of nutrition information, labeling with number of servings, nutrition label content, reference amounts customarily consumed per eating occasion (RACCs) and nutrient content claims. The labeling requirements for meat and those for poultry currently are published in separate entries in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.).
The F.S.I.S., in its proposal’s executive summary, pointed to the process undertaken by the F.D.A. to develop two new rules relating to food labeling. This process resulted in the F.D.A.’s publication on May 27 of this year of two final rules, the F.D.A. Nutrition Labeling Final Rule and the F.D.A. Serving Size Final Rule.
“F.S.I.S. has reviewed F.D.A.’s analysis, and to ensure that there is consistency in how nutrition information is presented across the food supply, F.S.I.S. is proposing to amend the nutrition labeling regulations for meat and poultry products to parallel, to the extent possible, F.D.A.’s final regulations,” the agency said. “This approach will clarify information for consumers and improve efficiency in the marketplace.”
First, the F.S.I.S. is proposing to consolidate the nutrition labeling regulations that currently are presented separately for meat and for poultry products into a single part of the C.F.R.
The F.S.I.S. then said, consistent with the F.D.A.’s final regulations, it is proposing to update the list of nutrients that are required or permitted to be declared and to provide updated Daily Reference Values and Reference Daily Intake values that are based on current dietary recommendations from consensus reports.
“For example, F.S.I.S. is proposing to remove the requirement to declare ‘calories from fat;’ require the declaration of ‘added sugars,’ vitamin D and potassium; permit the voluntary declaration of vitamins A and C, and update the reference value for the declaration of per cent Daily Value (D.V.) for sodium from the current value of 2,400 mg to 2,300 mg,” the agency said.
The F.S.I.S. also is proposing to amend the requirements for foods represented or purported to be specifically for children under the age of four years and pregnant women and lactating women and establish nutrient reference values specifically for these population subgroups.
The agency also proposes to revise the format and appearance of the Nutrition Facts Panel. Some of the proposed changes include increasing the type size for “calories,” “servings per container,” and the “serving size” declarations, and bold-facing the number of calories and the “serving size” declaration to highlight this information. These changes would be in line with those of F.D.A.’s new Nutrition Facts Panel for the foods under its purview.
Additionally, the F.S.I.S. said it will amend the definition of a single-serving container; require dual-column labeling for certain containers, and update and modify several RACCs.
The F.S.I.S. said quantitative costs to industry for the proposed rule include relabeling, recordkeeping and perhaps reformulation. The agency said these costs would be more than offset by quantitative benefits that should accrue in the form of health improvements experienced from increased label use by overweight and hypersensitive adults.
The F.S.I.S. meat and poultry product nutrition labeling proposal was expected by the food industry, said Eric Mittenthal, vice-president, communications, North American Meat Institute. Mr. Mittenthal confirmed the institute will submit comments on the proposal after a thorough review of its provisions. A spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers Association said the G.M.A. looks forward to working with the F.S.I.S. and other stakeholders during the rulemaking process.
The comment period for the F.S.I.S. proposal will extend into the next administration, and it was uncertain how the new leadership at the U.S.D.A. under a Trump administration will approach this and other regulatory proposals.