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    Nutrition Labels Coming to Meat Case

    New USDA rule covers 40 popular cuts of meat and poultry

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has adopted its long-anticipated rule requiring nutritional information labels on 40 of the most-popular cuts of meat and poultry products.

    Under the new rule, proposed in 2001, packages of ground or chopped meat and poultry will feature nutrition facts panels on their labels. Whole, raw cuts of meat and poultry will also have nutrition facts panels either on their package labels or available for consumers at the point-of-purchase.

    “More and more, busy American families want nutrition information that they can quickly and easily understand,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “We need to do all we can to provide nutrition labels that will help consumers make informed decisions. The USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services work hard to provide the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years, and now consumers will have another tool to help them follow these guidelines.”

    The rule takes effect on Jan. 1, 2012. The Federal Register notice announcing this rule can be found at http://federalregister.gov/a/2010-32485.

    The nutrition-facts panels will include the number of calories and the grams of total fat and saturated fat a product contains. Additionally, any product that lists a lean percentage statement, such as “76 percent lean,” on its label also will list its fat percentage, making it easier for consumers to understand the amounts of lean protein and fat in their purchase. The panels are expected to provide consumers with sufficient information at the store to assess the nutrient content of the major cuts, enabling them to select meat and poultry products that meet their individual health needs.

    Meat covered by the new rule include whole or boneless chicken breasts and other pieces; beef whole cuts such as brisket or tenderloin steak; hamburger; and ground turkey.

    Consumer watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest charged that the rules provide no new consumer benefit, arguing that most ground beef already has nutrition labeling. The group had urged USDA to prohibit “percent lean” statements on labels of ground meat, claiming the term “lean” misleads consumers into thinking meat is lower in fat than it really is.

    “Use of the word ‘lean’ in the context of ground beef is designed to deceive,” said Michael Jacobson, CSPI executive director. “It’s too bad that USDA missed an opportunity to give consumers easy-to-use, on-package information about how many calories and how much saturated fat is in steaks, roasts and other cuts of meat.”

    CSPI had urged the agency to require that single-serving packages of meat, such as one steak, bear nutrition information for the whole cut as sold.

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