Last week, USDA proposed a new rule that would limit the use of a label claim that a food is a “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” to be used on meat, poultry, and egg products only when they are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States. The goal of the proposal is to increase transparency, more accurately convey U.S. origin information, and help consumers know where their food comes from.
The Product of/Made in the USA claim is voluntary, and would continue to be so, and its use does not need to be pre-approved by FSIS but would require supporting documentation to be on file for agency inspection personnel to verify. The proposal also applies to voluntarily inspected products. The claims would need to include a description on the package of all preparation and processing steps that occurred in the United States upon which the claim is made.
The proposal is inspired by a 2021-initiated FSIS review of the current voluntary “Product of USA” labeling policy to help determine what the claim means to consumers, which it conducted after receiving several petitions stating that the claim is confusing to consumers. The FSIS review included a nationwide consumer survey of the labeling on beef and pork products, along with reviews of consumer research and the comments in the petitions. The survey showed that the label claim is misleading to most respondents, with a significant portion believing the claim means that the product was made from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States. Thus, the proposed rule will make the claim mean exactly that.
Additional specifications of the proposed rule include:
- Use of “Product of USA” and “Made in the USA” –the only authorized claims:
- On single ingredient, FSIS-regulated products derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States
- On multi-ingredient FSIS-regulated products if:
- All FSIS-regulated components of the product are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States; and
- All 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 US).
- Use of qualified claims (that is U.S.-origin label claims other than the authorized claims)
- Must 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.
- Positioned near the qualified claim to explain how the product compares to the regulatory criteria for use of the authorized claims (e.g., sliced and packaged in the United States using imported pork).
- The proposed rule would apply to domestic products. For product exported from the United States, FSIS would continue to verify that labeling requirements for the applicable country are met, as shown in the FSIS Export Library.
The proposal, which also delivers on a key action of President Biden’s 2021 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, is likely welcomed by U.S. meat, poultry and egg producers as it would limit the competition for consumers desiring US-made products to only those businesses who sell products derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the US.
While the rule is still in proposal stages, it will, in all likelihood, be enacted to much the same intent, if not the exact language, as is currently in the proposed rule, as transparency of food and its origins is a key consumer value today. Comments can be submitted until May 12, 2023.