FSIS Issues Revised Compliance Guidelines for Animal Raising Claims

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a revised compliance guideline for substantiating animal raising claims on labels for meat and poultry products. This updated guideline expands and, in some cases, modifies FSIS's written policies on animal raising claims made on meat and poultry products.

The guideline addresses both how claims should be phrased (including necessary qualifiers or explanatory text) and what type of information the establishment must include with the label application. Although FSIS policy has remained generally consistent at a high level from the previous guideline, FSIS has indicated that it expects certain claims to include additional or updated explanatory statements. It will be important for companies making animal raising claims to review their current labels and claims to evaluate whether changes will be required and to determine an appropriate process for doing so. Companies should revisit point-of-sale claims (regulated by FSIS but not subject to preapproval) and advertising (not regulated by FSIS but assessed by the Federal Trade Commission's deceptive advertising standard) in light of the revised compliance guidelines.

Animal raising claims, which include statements about antibiotic use, specialty feeds or diets, caging and handling, animal welfare claims, and other husbandry issues, are becoming increasingly popular on labels and point-of-sale retail labeling. Animal raising claims are considered "special statements or claims" that trigger prior review and approval by FSIS. The updated compliance guideline expands on the September 2016 version of the guideline. The revisions will be of interest to meat and poultry processors, retailers, and restaurants making these types of claims. Compliance guidelines are technically nonbinding documents, but they explain FSIS's current thinking and effectively represent the policies applied when the Agency reviews and approves labels bearing these claims. FSIS is accepting comments until February 25, 2020.

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