USDA wants changes in nutrition fact panel for meat, poultry products

By Daniel Enoch

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2016 - USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service is proposing to amend the nutrition labeling regulations for meat and poultry products to parallel the FDA's final nutrition regs, which were published in May.

FSIS says the proposal, if finalized, will improve presentation of nutrition information, helping consumers maintain healthy dietary practices.

"This new rule will provide more transparency on nutrition labels so that American consumers can make informed decisions about the foods they eat and feed their families," Alfred Almanza, USDA's deputy under secretary for Food Safety, said in a release. "The new nutrition facts panel will complement the many other proactive, prevention-based food policies that we've put in place in recent years."

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Specifically, FSIS is proposing to:

•Update the list of nutrients that are required or permitted to be declared;

•Provide updated Daily Reference Values (DRVs) and Reference Daily Intake (RDI) values that are based on current dietary recommendations from consensus reports;

•Amend the labeling requirements for foods represented or purported to be specifically for children under 4 years of age and for pregnant and lactating women, and establish nutrient reference values specifically for these population subgroups;

•Revise the format and appearance of the Nutrition Facts label;

•Amend the definition of a single-serving container;

•Require dual-column labeling for certain containers;

•Update and modify several reference amounts customarily consumed (RACCs); and

•Consolidate the nutrition labeling regulations for meat and poultry products into a new Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part.

Click here to see the full proposal. The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal once it's published in the Federal Register. Directions for submitting comments online or by mail can be found in the USDA release.

Brian Kennedy, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said GMA is looking forward to working with FSIS and other stakeholders as the proposed updates work make their way through the rule-making process. During that process, he said, it is “critical that any changes are based on the most current and reliable science.  Equally as important is ensuring that any changes ultimately serve to inform, and not confuse, consumers.”

For 20 years, he said, the Nutrition Facts panel has been “an invaluable tool to help consumers build more healthful diets for themselves and their families, and the time is right for an update.”

“Diets, eating patterns and consumer preferences have changed dramatically since the Nutrition Facts were first introduced” Kennedy said. “Just as food and beverage manufacturers have responded by creating more than 20,000 healthier product choices since 2002, and by providing tools like Facts Up Front front-of-pack labels, the USDA FSIS is responding with a thoughtful review of the Nutrition Facts panel.”

The North American Meat Institute did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(This story was updated at 8:30 p.m. with comment from the Grocery Manufacturers Association.)

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