'Made in the USA'? USDA Pitches Major Changes for Labeling Meat and Egg Products
In March 2023, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service ("FSIS") issued a proposed rule that would amend regulations defining when companies may use the voluntary label claim "Product of USA" and "Made in the USA." Here's what you need to know:
First, the rule allows for generic label approval of two label claims, "Product of USA" and "Made in the USA" for single ingredient FSIS-regulated domestic products derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States.
Second, these claims can be used on multi-ingredient products under two conditions:
(1) FSIS-regulated parts of the product "are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States"; and
(2) any additional ingredients "other than spices and flavorings, are of domestic origin (i.e., all preparation and processing steps of the ingredients are completed in the United States)."
Again, labels meeting these requirements can take advantage of generic label approval.
Third, other "qualified" origin claims are allowed on these products but only if they "include a description on the package of all preparation and processing steps (including slaughter) that occurred in the United States upon which the claim is made." USDA gave the following example of a compliant qualified origin label claim: "Sliced and packaged in the United States using imported pork." Again, qualified claims that meet these criteria are eligible for generic approval.
Fourth, this is a big change, and meat processors are concerned this proposed rule may disrupt integrated livestock supply chains between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Under the current rule, FSIS-regulated products can be labeled as "Product of USA" even if they are derived from animals born, raised and slaughtered in another country so long as they are "minimally processed" in the USA. That would no longer be the case under the new rule. Meat products derived from live animals imported into the U.S. for feeding or immediate slaughter would no longer be able to claim "Product of USA" or "Made in the USA." Likewise, imported meat products reprocessed in the U.S. would no longer be allowed to claim they are a "Product of USA" or "Made in the USA." These products could potentially have qualified claims, however.
Fifth, this rule does not apply to these same products when exported. FSIS will continue to verify that labeling requirements in export countries are met.
Sixth, any FSIS product that is also covered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) Country of Origin (COOL) mandatory labeling regulations also needs to comply with those rules. These products are ground and muscle cuts of lamb, chicken and goat, and catfish unless they meet the definition of "processed food item(s)," (e.g., fish sticks).
Seventh, claims relating to a region or state, e.g., "Made in Arkansas," need to meet the same standard (i.e., born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the state or region).
Eighth, USDA is seeking comments on required documentation and whether third-party certification is appropriate. Comments are currently due May 5, 2023.