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Labeling

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New York State has adopted the USDA FSIS Mandatory Labeling Requirements. The following items are required to be on the principal display panel (the main label) for all sales of meat or poultry, or meat or poultry products.

The following information must be on the label for those products sold in New York:

  • Product name (example- Chuck Roast, Hot Italian Sausage, Chicken Breasts)
  • Inspection legend and establishment number – For USDA inspection, this is the round purple stamp if amenable, or the triangular purple stamp if non-amenable. For 5-A the following wording must be on the label or carton, “Processed at a NYSDAM Article 5-A Facility”. The 5-A plant number is optional. If it is poultry processed under the 1000 bird exemption, this does not need to be stated.
  • Net weight statement– this includes packed on date, sell by date, price per pound, and net weight. Frozen meat does not require a sell-by date. Some products can be sold by the package (like sausage) as opposed to by the pound, but in this case the net weight must be on the package and the per pound price must be posted for all consumers to see.
  • Address line– This must include the name and address of the distributor or the name and address of the farm, if the farmer is acting as a distributor (selling to the end customer). If the farmer is NOT the distributor, a second line can be added to indicate the farm from which the product came from.
  • Handling statement– Packaged products that required special handling to maintain their wholesome condition must have prominently displayed on the principal display panel, the applicable handling statement: “Keep Refrigerated”, “Keep Frozen”, “Perishable- Keep Refrigerated or Frozen”. Additional safe handling instructions are also required.
  • Ingredient statement– This is only needed if the product is composed of more than one ingredient, so this is irrelevant for most fresh meat products. However, products like sausage fall into this category. This list of ingredients must show common names of all ingredients in descending order of their predominance.
  • Nutrition facts– not essential for raw (fresh or frozen) meat but is required on meat and poultry processed products like sausage. A NY processor employing fewer than 100 employees or producing fewer than 100,000 units are exempt from nutritional labeling. USDA processors with fewer than 500 employees and producing fewer than 100,000 pounds (of one recipe) are exempt from nutritional labeling. HOWEVER, if a farmer makes a nutritional claim in any way, then he must have a nutritional label

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USDA Mark of Inspection and Establishment Number

Meat unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome or otherwise unfit or unsafe for food shall not receive a Mark of Inspection. Meat may be adulterated with dyes, chemicals, preservatives, or ingredients, which render such product unfit for human consumption. The commissioner shall seize and destroy for food purposes any meat, meat by-product or meat food product that does not bear an official inspection legend affixed pursuant to a federal inspection. The transportation of dead animals, properly identified condemned carcasses and parts of carcasses, and other condemned or inedible products or materials to rendering plants is the only exception allowed.

It is unlawful for any person to possess, keep, or use an inspection legend, stamp simulating the inspection legend or meat label unless authorized to do so.

Meat that is sound, healthful, wholesome, and fit for sale and consumption shall receive a Mark of Inspection under a USDA inspection system. If an amenable meat, the mark of inspection shall be a circle, inside which is encrypted the identification number of the slaughtering or processing plant. If a non-amenable meat, the mark of inspection shall be a triangle, inside which will be encrypted the unique identification number of the slaughtering or processing plant.

Meat that has been federally inspected and passed for wholesomeness is stamped with a purple mark that is either round for amenable species or triangular for non-amenable species. The purple dye used to stamp the grade and inspection marks onto a meat carcass is made from a food-grade vegetable dye and is not harmful. (The exact formula is proprietary and owned by the maker of the dye.) The mark is put on carcasses and major cuts. After trimming, it might not appear on retail cuts such as roasts and steaks. However, meat that is packaged in an inspected facility will have an inspection mark that identifies the plant on the label.

Inspection mark
raw meat

Inspection mark
raw poultry

Inspection mark processed products

Voluntary Inspection mark

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Safe Handling Instructions: Required for Raw Meat and Poultry

The requirements in the new final rule on Pathogen Reduction and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) are designed to minimize the likelihood of harmful bacteria being present in raw meat and poultry products. However, some bacteria could be present and might become a problem if meat and poultry are not handled properly. To assist food handlers, both the USDA and NYSDAM require that safe handling instructions be put on all packages of raw and not fully cooked meat and poultry.

Safe handling instructions are required if the meat or poultry component of a product is raw or partially cooked (NOT considered Ready to Eat (RTE)).This additional label is required if the product is destined for household consumer or institutional users (including hotels and restaurants).Whole, halved and quartered carcasses are not considered packaged product and do not need a handling statement.

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Labeling of Additives

A food additive is defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as any substance used to provide a technical effect in foods. The use of food additives has become more prominent in recent years, due to the increased production of prepared, processed, and convenience foods. Additives are used for flavor and appeal, food preparation and processing, freshness, and safety. At the same time, consumers and scientists have raised questions about the necessity and safety of these substances.

Before any substance can be added to food, its safety must be assessed in a stringent approval process. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shares responsibility with FDA for the safety of food additives used in meat, poultry, and egg products. All additives are initially evaluated for safety by FDA. When an additive is proposed for use in a meat, poultry, or egg product, its safety, technical function, and conditions of use must also be evaluated by the Labeling and Consumer Protection Staff of FSIS, as provided in the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, the Egg Products Inspection Act, and related regulations. Although FDA has overriding authority regarding additive safety, FSIS may apply even stricter standards that take into account the unique characteristics of meat, poultry, and egg products. Additives are never given permanent approval. FDA and FSIS continually review the safety of approved additives, based on the best scientific knowledge, to determine if approvals should be modified or withdrawn.

The statutes and regulations to enforce the statutes require certain information on labels of meat and poultry products so consumers will have complete information about a product. In all cases, ingredients must be listed on the product label, in the ingredients statement in order by weight, from the greatest amount to the least.

Substances such as spices and spice extractives may be declared as “natural flavors”, “flavors”, or “natural flavoring” on meat and poultry labels without naming each one. This is because they are used primarily for their flavor contribution and not their nutritional contribution. Substances such as dried meat, poultry stock, meat extracts, or hydrolyzed protein must be listed on the label by their common or usual name because their primary purpose is not flavor. They may be used as flavor enhancers, binders, or emulsifiers. They must be labeled using the species of origin of the additive, for example, dried beef, chicken stock, pork extract, or hydrolyzed wheat protein. Color additives must be declared by their common or usual names on labels, e.g., FD&C Yellow 5, or annatto extract, not collectively as colorings. The labeling requirements help consumers make choices about the foods they eat.

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Dating

Except for infant formula and some baby food, product dating is not required by Federal Regulations. There is no uniform or universally accepted system used for food dating in theUnited States. Although dating of some foods is required by more than 20 states (includingNew York) there are areas of the country where much of the food supply has some type of open date and other areas where almost no food is dated. .(NOTE:New Yorkdoes not have a date law, rather it has a wholesome law to assure quality and provide a manufacturing guarantee. It is up to the individual as to how this wholesome law is upheld. For this reason NYSDAM FSI requires some type of dating.) For frozen product, this is the packed on date and for fresh meat or poultry, this is either the packed on or used by date.

 

Open Dating uses a calendar date as opposed to a code. It is stamped on a food product’s package to help the store determine how long to display the product for sale. It can also help the purchaser know if they are buying fresh product. Dates help consumers know when product is at its best. If a calendar date is used, it must express both the month and day of the month (and the year, in the case of shelf-stable and frozen products). If a calendar date is shown, immediately adjacent to the date must be a phrase explaining the meaning of that date such as “sell by” or “use before”.
Types of Dates

  • A “Packed On” date tells the consumer when the product was originally packaged.
  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. Product should be purchased before the date stamped, as the product quality has expired.
  • A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
  • “Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.

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Nutrition Labeling

The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 required nutrition labeling of most foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service proposed to extend mandatory nutrition labeling to single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products, which are currently covered only under the voluntary nutrition-labeling program. Nutrition information for major cuts would be required either on their labels or at their point of purchase. Nutrition information for ground or chopped products such as ground beef would be required on package labels.

Extending mandatory nutrition labeling to these products would help consumers make food-purchasing decisions that may help to improve diet quality. The proposal also would allow industry to continue to use the “percent lean” nutrient content claim for ground or chopped meat or poultry products that do not meet the criteria for low fat. Many ground and chopped products have difficulty meeting the criteria for “low fat”. The proposal also requires nutrition labeling on the packages of all ground or chopped meat and poultry products, such as hamburger, ground beef, ground beef patties, ground chicken, ground turkey, and ground chicken patties. Certain exemptions would apply to these requirements. Small businesses that qualify for the existing small business exemption from nutrition labeling requirements would be exempt from nutrition labeling requirements for ground or chopped products. However, the small business exemption would not apply to the major cuts of single-ingredient, raw products.

For the major cuts of meat and poultry products, nutrition information could be provided either on the package or at their point-of-purchase because consumers have reasonable expectations as to the nutrient content of these products. For ground or chopped products, however, nutrition labeling would be required on the package. Point-of-purchase labeling would not be permitted for ground or chopped products in order to make the nutrition labeling requirements for these products consistent with those for multi-ingredient and heat processed products, which have been covered under mandatory nutrition labeling requirements since 1993. Single-ingredient, raw ground or chopped meat and poultry products differ from other single-ingredient, raw meat, and poultry products because, in these products, certain parameters, such as their fat content, can be controlled precisely to obtain the desired product. In addition, FSIS has found that the nutrient and fat content of ground or chopped products varies so significantly that, without labeling, consumers could not assess the nutritional quality of these products to make informed comparisons.

The nutrition label would be comparable to that which appears on products today. The proposed requirements for the labels of major cuts are consistent with the current provisions of the voluntary nutrition labeling program, and the proposed requirements for the labels of ground or chopped products are consistent with the requirements for the labels on multi-ingredient or heat processed products. For example, FSIS is proposing that the nutrition information on labels of the major cuts be calculated on an “as packaged” or “as consumed” basis, while nutrition information of labels of ground or chopped products would be calculated on an “as packaged” basis.

SAMPLE LABEL WITH NUTRITIONAL LABELING

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Country of Origin Labeling

On January 15, 2009 the USDA AMS published a final rule for all covered commodities combined (74 FR 2658) which became effective onMarch 16, 2009. The requirements do not apply to covered commodities produced or packaged beforeSeptember 30, 2008. During the six-month period following the effective date of the regulation, AMS focused its resources on education and outreach or what is being termed, “informed compliance”. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) compliance is required.

All retailers are required to comply with COOL. A retailer is defined as any person licensed as a retailer under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA). The PACA definition of a retailer includes only those retailers handling fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables with an invoice value of at least $230,000 annually. HOWEVER, all individuals selling meat and poultry are considered retailers, regardless of the amount sold. The COOL law exempts food service establishments, including those within retail establishments, which includes restaurants, cafeterias, lunchrooms, food stands, bars, salad bars, and delicatessens. Food enterprises located within retail establishments that provide ready-to-eat foods are also exempt. If an individual sells product toCanada, a different section of the rule will be required to be followed.

The following must be labeled:

  • Muscle cuts of beef, veal, lamb, mutton, chicken, goat, and pork.
  • Ground beef (including veal) ground lamb (including mutton), ground chicken, ground goat, and ground pork.
  • Fish and shellfish (both wild and farm raised).
  • Perishable agricultural commodities (fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables).
  • Peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts.
  • Ginseng.

While non-amenable meat is not required to be labeled under COOL, the USDA labeling office may require “Product of the U.S.A” to be added to the label of products derived from animals raised, slaughtered and/or processed in theUnited States.

The COOL law contains an express exclusion for an ingredient in a processed food item. Examples of processed food items excluded from COOL labeling requirements are: teriyaki flavored pork loin, breaded chicken tenders, and marinated chicken breasts. Retail items that meet the definition of a processed food item do not require labeling under the COOL final rule; however, many imported items are still required to be marked with country of origin information under the Tariff Act of 1930 (Tariff Act). In addition, items such as marinated lamb loins that are imported in consumer-ready packages would also be required to be labeled with country of origin information as both Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Food Safety and Inspection Service regulations require meat that is imported in consumer-ready packages to be labeled with origin information on the package. Country of origin labeling can be declared on a placard, label, band, tag, sign, sticker, twist tie, or other such item.

For many years, the label, “Product of theU.S.A.” was applied to exported meat and poultry products in order to comply with the recipient’s country-of-origin labeling requirements. The term was applicable to products that, at a minimum, were prepared (e.g., sliced, cut, heated) in theUnited States. For example, the labels of products made from imported cattle raised inU.S.feed lots, then slaughtered and processed in theUnited Statescould include the claim “Product of theU.S.A.” The term also applied to products derived from cattle that originated in another country and were slaughtered and processed in theUnited States, as well as to products slaughtered in another country but processed in theUnited States. “Product of theU.S.A.” was never construed by FSIS to refer to product derived only from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in theUnited States. Under COOL, now only those products made from animals born, raised, and slaughtered in theUnited Statescan claim “Product of the U.S. (A.)”.

Under the COOL requirements, product origin must be established. If raw material has different origins, the label must specify from which countries the raw material came from. For example, “Rib eye steaks fromU.S.,CanadaandMexico” or “Ground Meat fromU.S.,New Zealand, andBrazil”. If animals were imported for immediate slaughter and are from multiple origins, then the label must note this. Because slaughter was conducted in theUnited States, theU.S.is listed last on the label. For example “Pork Roast fromCanadaandU.S.”. If the product is of foreign origin then it must be listed on the label as declared by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). For example, “Lamb chops fromAustralia”.

FSIS regulations allow labeling of fresh beef products using terms such as “U.S.A. Beef”, and “Fresh American Beef”. FSIS interprets these terms to mean that the products are derived from cattle born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in theUnited Statesor in a specific geographic location in theUnited States. For example, “New York Beef” pertains to beef from cattle that were born, raised, slaughtered, and processed inNew York. All such geographic claims must be substantiated before label approval through records documenting adherence to a producer’s operational protocol, and through testimonials and affidavits.

Additional information on COOL is available at http://www.ams.usda.gov/cool . Questions can be submitted to cool@usda.gov

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UPC or Bar Codes

Universal Product Codes appear on packages as black lines of varying widths above a series of numbers. They are not required by regulation but manufacturers print them on most product labels because scanners at supermarkets can “read” them quickly to record the price at checkout. Bar codes are used by stores and manufacturers for inventory purposes and marketing information. When read by a computer, they can reveal such specific information as the manufacturer’s name, product name, size of product and price. The numbers are not used to identify recalled products.

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