New Nutrition Labels for Meat, Poultry Become Mandatory

Washington: On March 1, a new USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) rule went into effect requiring new labeling rules for key nutrition information for the most popular meats and poultry products.

The panels provide consumers with sufficient information at the store to assess the nutrient content of the major cuts, enabling them to select meat and poultry products that fit into a healthy diet that meets their family's or their individual needs.

Under the new "Nutrition Labeling of Single-Ingredient Products and Ground or Chopped Meat and Poultry Products" rule, packages of ground or chopped meat and poultry will feature nutrition facts panels on their labels. Additionally, 40 of the most popular whole, raw cuts of meat and poultry, such as chicken breast or steak, will also have nutritional information either on the package labels or on display to consumers at the store.

"Providing nutrition information on meat and poultry products in the store gives shoppers a clearer sense of the options available, allowing them to purchase items that are most appropriate for their families' needs," said Undersecretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. "These new labels mark a significant step in the agency's efforts to help consumers make more informed food purchase decisions."

The new nutrition facts panels will list the number of calories and the grams of total fat and saturated fat that a product contains. For example, consumers will be able to compare the calories and fat content for ground turkey versus ground beef, or for pork chops versus chicken breasts, right in the store. Additionally, a ground or chopped product that includes on its label a lean percentage statement, such as "85 percent lean," and is not considered "low in fat" also will list its fat percentage, making it easier for consumers to understand the amounts of lean and fat content in a particular product. Consumers no longer will have to guess which products fit their diets.

The rule was supposed to become effective on Jan. 1, 2012; however, the start date was pushed back to give retailers more time to properly implement and comply with the new requirements.