New USDA Rule Would Require Meat Additives On Nutrition Labels
Additives in meat can cause sodium content to be higher than consumers realize. Currently, meat with additives is not labeled. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) is proposing a new rule concerning labeling meat additives. The proposed rule was posted a few weeks ago on the USDA’s FSIS website. There is a 60 day period when people can comment.
The USDA first proposed a meat labeling rule in 2001 but allowed it to “languish for eight years during the Bush administration,” according to a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest titled Food Labeling Chaos.
About one-third of poultry, 15 percent of beef and 90 percent of pork may contain additives, with an average of about 40 percent in all raw meat. A press release announcing the proposed rule sites the example of two chicken breasts, one with additives and one without: both have the same label even though the one with the additives may be only 60 percent chicken breast and 40 percent solution. The proposed rule would list “chicken breast – 40% added solution of water and teriyaki sauce.” The description of the additives must be in a “font, size, and color that are easily visible to consumers.”
“Consumers should be able to make an informed choice in the store, which is why we need to provide clear, informative labels that will help consumers make the best decisions about feeding their families,” said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “It has become evident that some raw meat and poultry labels, even those that follow our current guidelines, may not be clear.”
“Who wants to pay $4.99 a pound for the added water and salt?” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Besides cheating customers financially, ‘enhancing’ meat and poultry delivers a stealth hit of sodium.”
Food labels in general need to be updated
There are problems in general with food labels. FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said in a 2009 speech to the National Food Policy Conference, “The public health importance of food labeling as an essential means for informing consumers about proper nutrition…has not been substantially addressed since the FDA implemented the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, more than 16 years ago.”
Hamburg also noted, “We’ve seen the emergence of claims that may not provide the full picture of their products’ true nutritional value. It will be important to reestablish a science-based approach to protect the public.”
The nutrition facts label on food products has not been updated for over one and a half decades, and requirements for listing ingredients on processed foods have not been comprehensively updated since 1938, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest report. The report mentions that ingredients are still allowed to be listed in tiny print, and the percentages of key ingredients are generally not allowed to be listed in tiny print.
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