By Rebecca Mayo, J.D.
Proposed rule would eliminate the requirement that meat, poultry, and egg products that fall into a certain net weight class must express the net weight in two different units.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has proposed removing the net weight dual declaration requirement on meat, poultry, and egg product packages that contain more than one pound or pint and less than four pounds or one gallon. Removing this requirement will provide consistent labeling across products, reduce the likelihood of misprinted labels, and free up space on product labels (Proposed rule, 84 FR 15989, April 17, 2019).
Current regulation. Current regulations require dual declaration on the product label of the net weight in ounces and immediately thereafter in parentheses in pounds, with any remainder in terms of ounces or common or decimal fraction of the pound. For liquid measure, net content in fluid ounces must be expressed and immediately thereafter in parentheses the largest whole U.S. customary unit. Packages of products that contain less than one pound or pint or that contain four pounds or one gallon or more are not subject to the dual declaration regulation and may express the net weight or content as a single, accurate statement.
Proposed change. Under the proposal, all sections of the regulation requiring or cross-referencing dual net weight or content statements would be removed. Products that contain at least one pound or one pint, but less than four pounds or one gallon would not be required to express the net weight or net contents in two different units of measurement on the product label.
Reason for change. After Executive Order 13777 "Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda" was signed, federal agencies established Regulatory Reform Task Forces to evaluate existing regulations and make recommendations for repeal, replacement and modification. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) task force published a proposed rule asking for public comment on how the USDA could serve better and remove unintended barriers to participation in USDA programs.
FSIS received a petition submitted on behalf of a small meat processing establishment requesting that the regulations relating to dual declaration be rescinded. The petition indicated that equipment needed to print labels with dual net weight statements can be more expensive than the equipment used to print labels with single net weight statements. It also indicated that costs associated with the dual declaration labeling requirements may be stifling competition and limiting the ability of start-up and small producers to compete with larger producers.
FSIS believes that requiring only one unit of measurement would provide consistent and more flexible net weight and content statement regulations across all FSIS meat and poultry products. Further, companies would no longer have to keep track of which products need to include a dual or single net weight or content declaration. Finally, the likelihood of misprinted labels should decrease and a small amount of space on the label would be made available.
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