The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a new effort to strengthen the substantiation of animal-raising claims on meat and poultry product labelling.
The announcement follows numerous complaints received by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) asking for a re-evaluation of how animal-raising claims are substantiated. One claim stakeholders have called into question is the accuracy of “negative” antibiotics claims such as “raised without antibiotics” or “no antibiotics ever”.
Claims such as “grass-fed” and “free-range” must be approved by FSIS before they can be included on the labels of meat and poultry products sold to consumers. FSIS’ guidelines on animal-raising claims were last updated in 2019, which detailed information needed to accompany claims like “raised without antibiotics” and “raised without hormones.”
FSIS, in partnership with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, will be conducting a sampling project to assess antibiotic residues in cattle for the “raised without antibiotics” market.
The department said the results 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.
US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said: “Consumers should be able to trust that the label claims they see on products bearing the USDA mark of inspection are truthful and accurate”.
He added: “USDA is taking action today to ensure the integrity of animal-raising claims and level the playing field for producers who are truthfully using these claims, which we know consumers value and rely on to guide their meat and poultry purchasing decisions”.
FSIS will also issue a revised industry guideline to advise companies to strengthen the documentation they submit to the agency to substantiate animal-raising claims. The agency plans to encourage the use of third-party certification to verify these claims.
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