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On New Year’s Eve, the USDA’s (Department’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released its final rule requiring meat and poultry processors to include added solutions in their product labeling.

FSIS issued the added solutions proposed rule on July 27, 2011, in response to petitions calling on the Department to address the notion that some product labels may not clearly and conspicuously identify that the raw meat or poultry products contain added solution.

The original petitions were driven by competitive disagreements within the poultry industry. More specifically, the petitioners originally asserted that some companies were marketing fresh chicken items extended with broth in a manner that confused such products with traditional single-ingredient products. Nevertheless, FSIS extended the scope of both the proposed and final rules to encompass the broader range of meat and poultry products within its jurisdiction. In doing so, FSIS chose to more formally codify a number of longstanding labeling precedents and guidance within this area.

Per the final rule, meat and poultry labeling will have to include the percentage of added solution and the individual ingredients or multi-ingredient components in the solution listed in descending order of predominance by weight. The percent solution must appear after the product name as a number (e.g., 15, 20, 30) with the percentage sign (%) and may be declared with the word “containing” or “contains.”

The print for all words in the product name, including the descriptive designation, must appear in a single, easy-to-read type style and color and on a single color-contrasting background. The print may appear in upper- and lowercase letters, with the lowercase letters not smaller than one-third of the size of the largest letter.

As provided in the final rule, a few examples of the required product name labeling are below:

  • Pork Tenderloin - 15% Added solution of Water and Teriyaki Sauce
  • Pork Tenderloin Contains 15% Added Solution of Water and Salt
  • Chicken Breast Flavored with 15% Added Solution of Water, Salt, Spices, and Sodium Phosphate

The final rule will become effective on January 1, 2016. However, the Department is providing an applicability date of January 1, 2018 for the one-third type size requirement discussed above to provide additional time and flexibility for establishments to make labeling changes.