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YOUR SOURCE ON FOOD LITIGATION AND REGULATION

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a Notice of Availability and Request for Public Comment on a new guideline addressing multi-component food kits that contain meat or poultry items (Meal Kit Guideline). The Meal Kit Guideline provides industry with information on how to label a multi-component food kit that contains meat or poultry and whether it would need to be prepared under FSIS inspection.

The major takeaways include the following:

The Meal Kit Guideline only applies to “Multi-Component Food Kits.” There are many meal kit products on the market today – from those made in the grocery store to those available online. However, the Meal Kit Guideline referenced in the notice only applies to meal kits that consist of “individually-packaged food components sold together as a single unit.” USDA notes that the meat or poultry items in such multi-component food kits are individually wrapped and fully labeled, but then “assembled together with various other food components in the same packaging.” An example would be a “Spaghetti Dinner Kit,” which would include fully cooked meatballs, a marinara sauce packet, and uncooked spaghetti.

USDA’s essential finding here is that neither the assembly of such kits nor the labeling of the kit in a way that emphasizes its meat or poultry components does not trigger its continuous inspection jurisdiction.

Note that the Meal Kit Guideline does not apply to “at-home meal kits,” where consumers order individually packaged, pre-portioned foods online that are delivered directly to the consumers’ home for preparation. These types of kits are “typically prepared and packed without FSIS inspection under the retail exemption (see 9 CFR 303.1(d) and 381.10(d)).” While USDA has addressed label and mark of inspection requirements related to at-home meal kits – this industry still awaits guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as to how to properly label at-home meal kits and present required statements and nutritional information online (but we can save that for a separate post).

Multi-component food kits can identify the meat or poultry name in the statement of identity (e.g., “Pepperoni Pizza Kit,” or “Chicken Skillet Meal”) – as Long as conditions are met. Before issuing the Meal Kit Guideline, USDA required meal kits that use the name of the meat or poultry component in the statement of identity or fanciful name to be assembled under FSIS inspection. The Meal Kit Guideline states FSIS inspection is no longer required if the following conditions are met:

  1. The meat or poultry component is prepared and separately packaged under FSIS inspection and labeled with all required features
  2. The outer kit label identifies all of the individual components in the kit
  3. The outer kit label clearly identifies the product as a single unit or “kit” (e.g., “Spaghetti Dinner Kit”)

Multi-component food kit labels do not require FSIS approval. Under these circumstances, multi-component food kits remain under the jurisdiction of USDA, but manufacturers do not need to submit labels to FSIS for approval – as long as the requirements above are met.

Meal Kit Guideline comment period is open until September 9, 2019. The public can submit comments on the Meal Kit Guideline until September 9, 2019 online.