U.S – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published a proposed rule with new regulatory requirements to better align the voluntary “Product of USA” label claim with consumer comprehension of the claim’s meaning.

According to the proposed rule, meat, poultry, and egg products may only use the voluntary “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” label claim if the animals used to produce those products were born, raised, slaughtered, and processed domestically.

The USDA started a thorough investigation in July 2021 to learn what the “Product of USA” claim means to consumers and to inform future rulemaking to specify the criteria for making such a claim.

USDA commissioned a national consumer survey to be conducted as part of its investigation.

According to the survey, the majority of consumers think the present “Product of USA” simply implies that the product was made from animals that were born, raised, butchered, and processed domestically, which is misleading.

The detailed analysis by the USDA demonstrates the obvious necessity to update the current “Product of USA” label claim in order to better effectively communicate information about U.S. origin.

The declaration fulfills one of the primary actions in President Biden’s Executive Order on Encouraging Competition in the American Economy as well as a promise made in the Biden-Harris Administration’s Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain.

The increased clarity and transparency provided by this proposed change would prevent consumer confusion and help ensure that consumers understand where their food comes from.

“American consumers expect that when they buy a meat product at the grocery store, the claims they see on the label mean what they say. 

“These proposed changes are intended to provide consumers with accurate information to make informed purchasing decisions. Our action today affirms USDA’s commitment to ensuring accurate and truthful product labeling,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) had earlier petitioned the USDA to eliminate such labels that make broad claims about the origin of beef products because they are likely to mislead consumers.

In the petition, the trade association had pleaded for the declaration of a federal rule to update existing labeling standards in a way that will more precisely inform consumers.

The “Product of USA” label claim would still be optional under the proposed rule.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA would not need to approve it beforehand before it could be used on a product that is subject to regulation. However, it would still need to have the necessary supporting documentation on file for agency inspection staff to verify. 

It would also continue to be eligible for generic label approval.

The proposal also suggests allowing additional optional U.S. origin claims, such as those seen on meat, poultry, and egg products that are sold in stores.

These claims would have to contain a description of every preparation and processing step that took place in the United States and is based on the claim on the package.

International and domestic parties are encouraged to comment on the proposed rule during the 60 days following its publication in the Federal Register.

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