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WASHINGTON - After publishing a proposed rule mandating nutrition information on single-ingredient meat and poultry products in January 2001, the U.S. Department of Agriculture appears poised to release new regulations in a final rule this summer.
Meat producer industry groups, meat processing, and retail industry organizations have joined forces in a broad-based coalition to help meat processors and retailers understand and optimize the potential outcomes from these regulations by educating consumers on the benefits of consuming meat as part of a healthy diet.
The expected announcement this summer of revised regulations would require nutrition information currently provided on other foods, such as hot dogs or bacon, be provided on single-ingredient, raw meat, and poultry product labels, or at the point of purchase.
Comprising members of the American Lamb Board (ALB), the American Meat Institute (AMI), the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) -- on behalf of the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) -- and the National Pork Board (NPB), the coalition will host an industry meeting in early July to discuss these regulations with retail and meat industry leadership.
During the meeting, the coalition will work with these groups to understand how nutrition information will impact the retail and meat-processing industries, enhance the meat case, and determine how to best move forward with implementation of the new regulations while keeping the consumer's needs in mind.
"The industry has been working together as a coalition since the mid-1980s to ensure that consumers have access to nutrition information at the meat case, so they can make informed purchasing decisions," says Dagmar Farr, FMI group v.p. of legislative and consumer affairs. "With the announcement of the final rule expected this summer, retailer awareness and support are critical to providing accurate nutrition information to consumers."
In-store pilot test programs conducted in 2003 by the NCBA, on behalf of the CBB, at Kroger/Fry's in Tucson, Ariz. and Harris Teeter in Charlotte, N.C., found that providing more detailed on-pack nutrition labeling, coupled with point-of-sale nutrition materials, could influence consumer shopping decisions and increase meat sales.
The USDA's revised regulations this summer are unlikely to require labeling of the additional nutrients found in meat products, such as zinc and B vitamins. The pilot program research showed that more than three out of four consumers preferred a label that included these additional nutrients.
The coalition encourages retailers and meat processors to take a proactive approach to labeling. Use of a label including these additional nutrients can further inform consumers regarding the positive overall health benefits of meat.