USDA Promises Fix for “Product of USA” Meat Labeling

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The Federal Trade Commission has finalized a rule strengthening the use of the “Made in USA” label. While the rule does not require specific actions to be taken regarding the labeling of beef, in conjunction with this rule, the USDA has announced a top-to-bottom review of the “Product of the United States” label.

The USDA last year announced plans to conduct its own regulations to address concerns that the voluntary “Product of the United States” label could confuse consumers as to the origin of products regulated by the Safety Service. sanitary and food inspection.

“After reviewing the many comments received by the FTC and USDA on this issue, we are launching a top-to-bottom review of the ‘Product of USA’ label that will help us, among other things, to determine what this label means to consumers, ”Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “We believe this review will allow our next regulation on the subject, announced in the Biden-Harris administration’s Spring Regulatory Agenda, to be comprehensive, effective and sustainable.”

Vilsack adds that American consumers depend on accurate and transparent labels to get important information about the foods they eat. American farmers and ranchers depend on these same labels to convey information about their products that consumers appreciate and demand.

“We have taken note of the many comments submitted to the USDA and FTC regarding meat labeling and understand that the current ‘Product of USA’ label on meat products may no longer be used effectively. one or the other, to the detriment of consumers, producers and fair and competitive markets, ”says Vilsack.

He adds that he is committed to ensuring that the “Product of United States” label reflects what a simple understanding of these terms means to American consumers.

“Throughout the rule-making process, we’ll ask questions, collect data and solicit feedback,” says Vilsack. “And we will consider any ideas suggested by all stakeholders, including our business partners with whom we will engage to ensure that this labeling initiative is implemented in a way that respects our commitment to work cooperatively. with our business partners and to meet our international business obligations.

Industry applauds the action

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association recently filed a petition with FSIS to eliminate the use of the “Product of USA” label and other general US origin labeling claims for beef products.

“The ‘Product of USA’ label is not subject to source verification, is not tied to any type of food safety standard, and is enforced by packagers and retailers in a way that does not no value to the livestock producer. This label doesn’t just mislead consumers, it’s yet another hurdle for producers to gain influence and distinguish their product in the market, ”said NCBA President Jerry Bohn. “NCBA members have raised concerns about the potentially misleading use of the label, and we thank the USDA for addressing these concerns and for recognizing that unverified labels do not render service to producers and consumers. “

Senator Mike Rounds, RS.D., welcomed the action, saying, “For years we have called on the USDA to take action to prevent foreign beef from receiving the ‘Product of the States’ label. -United “. US consumers are misled when the “Product of USA” label is allowed to be applied to foreign beef. “

Rounds introduced legislation prohibiting foreign beef from being labeled as a “product of the United States” and ensuring that the label only applies to beef and beef products exclusively derived from animals born, raised and raised. slaughtered here in the United States.

“American ranchers are unfairly disadvantaged in the marketplace because substandard foreign beef can be improperly labeled ‘Product of the United States’. This compromises the high quality of beef raised in the United States and should be stopped. Only products born, raised and slaughtered in the United States should receive the “Product of the United States” label, ”says Rounds.

National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said he was encouraged by the announcement and urged the USDA to limit “Product of the United States” labels strictly to meat products that have never spent time in outside the country.

“American consumers deserve to know where their meat comes from. Whether they want to keep their food dollar in their community, limit their food miles, or avoid unsustainable or unethical practices, there are many reasons someone would want to know in which country their meat was raised. . But as it is, there is no way to determine the origin of beef and pork since the very misleading “Product of USA” label can appear on meat that has passed its entire life. life in another country, ”he said.

Larew says the NFU sincerely hopes the agency will limit the claim exclusively to domestically born, raised, slaughtered and processed meat, providing greater transparency to consumers and financial opportunities to American farmers and ranchers.

USDA Authority

The USDA announcement came after the FTC held a public hearing on FTC-2020-0056, Made in USA Rulemaking, Matter No. P074204. The Commission voted 3-2 in favor of the final rule, which will take effect 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

The new rule will strengthen the power of the FTC to enforce “Made in USA” labels. The NCBA submitted comments on the proposed rule in 2020. NCBA’s comments reminded the FTC that the USDA has primary jurisdiction over all meat-based food product surveillance activities, including approval. and verification of geographical and origin labeling claims.

While the FTC and USDA announcements may have similarities, the NCBA believes the USDA is the best equipped agency to properly oversee the labeling of beef and we support the USDA’s continued jurisdiction over labeling of meat-based food products.

The NCBA says its local policy supports a more appropriate generic label, such as “Treaty in the United States.” In addition, the NCBA stands ready to work with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Department to proactively educate cattle producers, processors and retailers on the various opportunities that exist to develop origin marketing claims. voluntary and verifiable that deliver tangible benefits to beef producers without breaking trade rules.


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