USDA takes steps to ensure more accurate food labeling
Posted on Jun 21, 2023 at 0:00 AM
On June 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the implementation of a multi-step effort aimed at strengthening the substantiation of animal-raising claims in food labeling.
Claims such as “grass-fed” and “free-range” are voluntary marketing claims that highlight certain aspects of how the source animals for meat and poultry products are raised. These claims must be approved by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) before they can be included on the labels of meat and poultry products sold to consumers. FSIS most recently updated its guideline on these claims in 2019.
FSIS has received several petitions, comments, and letters from a wide range of stakeholders asking the agency to reevaluate its oversight of animal-raising claims, specifically, how they are substantiated. In addition, the veracity of “negative” antibiotics claims (e.g., “raised without antibiotics” or “no antibiotics ever”) has come into question.
FSIS, in partnership with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), will be conducting a sampling project to assess antibiotic residues in cattle destined for the “raised without antibiotics” market. The results of this project will help inform whether FSIS should require that laboratory testing results be submitted for the “raised without antibiotics” claim or start a new verification sampling program.
FSIS will also be issuing a revised guideline to recommend that companies strengthen the documentation they submit to the agency to substantiate animal-raising claims. The agency plans to strongly encourage use of third-party certification to verify these claims.