On December 31, 2014, the Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a final rule requiring the use of descriptive designations as part of the product name on labels for raw meat and poultry products that contain added solutions and do not meet a “standard of identity”.  The descriptive designation must include the percentage of added solution as well as the individual ingredients or multi-ingredient components in the solution listed in descending order of predominance by weight.  FSIS is now prohibiting the use of the term “enhanced” in the product name, including the descriptive designation.  FSIS states in the ruling that in addition to “contains” or “containing”, the terms “for flavor”, “flavored with”, “basted” or “marinated” may be used.

The print for all words in the product name, including in the descriptive designation, must appear in a single “easy to read” type style and color on a single color contrasting background.  The print may appear in upper and lowercase type, with lower case letters not smaller than 1/3 the size of the largest letter.  The percent solution must appear as a number with the percentage sign (e.g. 20%) and may be declared with the word “containing” or “contains” among other terms specified in the compliance document.  The word “enhanced” is not permitted in the product name.  FSIS is also removing the standard of identity regulation for “ready to cook poultry products to which solutions are added”.  (Reference 9 CFR 381.169)

The ruling occurred in response to petitions from the public and encompassed passed experience in label reviews.  The ruling will impact both retail stores and official establishments.  General compliance date is January 1, 2016 although a separate date of January 1, 2018 has been set for the requirement that lower case letters not be smaller than 1/3 the size of the largest letter in the product name or descriptive designation.

The product name and the descriptive designation must be printed in a single “easy to read” type style and color and must appear on a single color contrasting background.  Upper and lowercase letters may be used for the product name and descriptive designation, however lowercase letters cannot be smaller than 1/3 the size of the largest letter.

The percentage of the added solution is the total weight of the solution ingredients divided by the weight of the raw protein (meat, poultry) without solution or any other added ingredients multiplied by 100.  The percentage of solution must appear as a number (such as 20, 25, 30) and the percent symbol “%”.

The rule applies to raw meat and poultry products containing added solutions.  This ruling INCLUDES MARINADES.  Meat and poultry products marinated in a retail establishment must be labeled or identified with signage in accordance with the rule.  FSIS has stated that retail signage for these products is covered by the regulation (example a sign posted near unpackaged product in a display case).  Retailers will be required to determine marinade absorption rates.  Meat and poultry products containing added solutions that are labeled by retailers must comply with the requirements of the regulation.

When the descriptive designation includes all ingredients in the solution, a separate ingredients statement is not required.  When the descriptive designation includes multi ingredient components and the ingredients of the components are not declared in the descriptive designation all ingredients in the product must be declared in a separate ingredients statement on the label.

In cases where existing labels are altered to comply with the new ruling, resubmission for approval may not be required.  FSIS published a final rule on November 7, 2013 that expanded the circumstances in which FSIS generically approves meat and poultry labels.  Labels for these products containing added solutions can be generically approved provided they display all mandatory features in a prominent manner in compliance with the regulations and are not otherwise false or misleading.

You can follow the USDA changes and other helpful information on twitter at this link.

Sample Label