Conference discusses poultry labelling issues

02-05-2008 | | |

Food labelling has always been an important issue for poultry processors from a regulatory standpoint, but now consumers have become much more interested in labels and the information on the products they purchase, particularly natural and organic identification.

These were 2 issues discussed at the 20th annual Federal Food Regulatory Conference, 28-29 April.
In recent years, the pressure on food manufacturers to label their products accurately has escalated greatly, says manager for national nutrition policy at the American Dietetic Association, Jennifer Weber. “[Consumers] want their foods to be local, and come from companies that use ‘green’ practices… They also want their products to be fresh and natural,” she stated, adding that some labels are more successful in the market place than others when it comes to illustrating health issues. “Advertising using the word ‘fresh’ makes them much more attractive to consumers.”
“Natural” definition causing chaos
Robert G. Hibbert, an attorney with Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis, said the USDA will not settle on what the term “natural” means when it is applied to meat and poultry products. “Right now, I’d describe the situation at USDA concerning the terms ‘natural’ and ‘naturally raised’ as ‘chaos’,” he said. “As far as the record goes, for the terms ‘natural’ and ‘naturally raised’, there is no consensus.”
“Naturally raised” has been discussed as an Agriculture Marketing Service fee programme, and 44,000 comments have been received so far, mostly against it, reports Meat&Poultry. There is no coherent ‘natural’ policy in effect, according to Hibbert.
The USDA abandoned its Policy Memo 55 in 2005, and the current definition exists in the Food Standards and Labelling Policy Book under “natural claims”.
“There are really two questions to answer here,” Hibbert said. “Is USDA in a position to address complex issues like ‘what does natural mean?’ And what does industry really want?”
In his opinion, however, neither question has been answered.