Do you support USDA’s proposed food label changes?

On Dec. 1, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released its proposal to update nutritional information for meat and poultry products.

According to a release, “FSIS is proposing to amend the nutrition labeling regulations for meat and poultry products to parallel the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) final nutrition regulations, which were published on May 27, 2016. The proposed rule will improve the presentation of nutrition information to assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices.”

Specifically, FSIS is proposing to:

  • Update the list of nutrients that are required or permitted to be declared;
  • Provide updated Daily Reference Values (DRVs) and Reference Daily Intake (RDI) values that are based on current dietary recommendations from consensus reports;
  • Amend the labeling requirements for foods represented or purported to be specifically for children under the age of 4 years and pregnant women and lactating women and establish nutrient reference values specifically for these population subgroups;
  • Revise the format and appearance of the Nutrition Facts label;
  • Amend the definition of a single-serving container;
  • Require dual-column labeling for certain containers;
  • Update and modify several reference amounts customarily consumed (RACCs or reference amounts); and
  • Consolidate the nutrition labeling regulations for meat and poultry products into a new Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part.

The proposal can be viewed on the FSIS website by clicking here.

FSIS is seeking public comments for the next 60 days. Producers can submit their thoughts online through the Federal eRulemaking Portal; by mail to the Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Patriots Plaza 3, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Mailstop 3782, Room 8-163B, Washington, DC 20250-3700; or by hand at Patriots Plaza 3, 355 E Street SW., Room 8-163B, Washington, DC 20250-3700.

My thoughts on these proposed changes are mixed. While I think it's important to update labels to reflect current nutritional guidelines (remember that the 2015 nutritional guidelines have been approved), I don’t think the current recommendations are based on sound science and reasonable nutritional advice. Note that once again, saturated fats and animal proteins are demonized based on the personal biases and beliefs of the panel while fruits, grains and vegetables are celebrated.

Additionally, we don’t know whether the Trump Administration will follow through with these costly changes. This has been a pet project for First Lady Michelle Obama in recent years, and it’s unclear if the upcoming leadership will pick up where she left off.

I’m in favor of the marketplace dictating what goes on a nutrition label, and if the consumer is asking for more information, let’s present it to them. However, depending on the specifics that are placed on a label (GMO-free as an example), the labels could present inaccuracies and further confusion about the safety and wholesomeness of conventional foods.

Plus, if food companies are required to make changes to the labels now, only to have those changes altered with Trump at the helm, it could reflect in an uptick in food prices as manufacturers absorb the costs of these label changes.

What do you think about the proposed changes? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to submit your opinions to FSIS within the 60-day window.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

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