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United States Department of Agriculture
Food Safety and Inspection Service
Office of Policy and Program Development
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Labeling and Consumer Protection


FSIS Responses to Questions From the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Regarding Organic Meat and Poultry Products Labeling


May 2002


  1. Use of the term "organic"

  1. Will meat be allowed to be labeled "organic meat" once the USDA rule is in place?

Ans. – All meat and poultry items will be allowed to bear the claim "organic" on their labeling as long as they comply with the National Organic Standards beginning on or about April 21, 2002.

  1. Will the term "organic meat" be allowed in all labeling use such as ingredient list, glamour copy, point of purchase and all uses?

Ans. – The term "organic" will be allowed on all labeling, in any location on a package label, and on point-of-purchase materials and all other labeling, provided the product meets all requirements for "organic" labeling according to the National Standards. "Organic Meat" is not an acceptable product name because FSIS regulations require species declaration on all meat and poultry items.


  1. Will there be restrictions on font size beyond the National Organic Program (NOP) requirements? What about color, placement on the principal display panel (PDP), and other issues within FSIS labeling regulations?

Ans. – In the National Standards, the required font size for the claim "organic" is stated as follows: "the size of the percentage statement must not exceed one-half the size of the largest type size on the panel on which the statement is displayed and must appear in its entirety in the same type, size, style, and color without highlighting."

According to the National Standards, the color would have to be a legible contrast to the other colors on the principal display panel (PDP). The USDA organic seal, when used on labeling, must replicate the form and design in 7 CFR 205.311 [PDF]. If any other logo, seal or identifying mark is on the product label, it cannot be displayed more prominently than the USDA organic seal. If any other claims are made on the label, e.g., "raised without antibiotics," "no added hormones," "free range," the only requirement for type size in FSIS policies would be at least one-sixteenth of an inch for visibility. Other FSIS labeling requirements are found in 9 CFR, Parts 317 and 381, of the Federal meat and poultry inspection regulations, respectively.


  1. Will there be any restrictions on the "made with organic meat" category? Will this category be treated differently?

Ans. – A "made with" statement could be used when a certified organic meat or poultry ingredient has been used to formulate a secondary product. Claims made on the labeling of primary products can be transferred to the labeling of secondary products; however, claims can only refer to a specific organic ingredient and not to the entire secondary product, e.g., "Beef Pattie Made with Organic Beef." Consistent with the National Standards, the percentage of organic ingredient must comprise at least 70 percent of the product.


  1. Documentation


  1. Will FSIS accept the organic certificate by an accredited certifier as documentation of "organic" or will there still be production documentation required?

Ans. – Yes, FSIS will accept the organic certificate from an accredited certifying entity. This is basically the procedure that has been applied for the "certified organic by (certifying entity)" policy. Producers requesting a label approval from FSIS, Labeling and Consumer Protection Staff (LCPS) for a product labeled as "certified organic by…(certifying entity)," have had to include with their application a copy of the certificate received from the organic certifier.

  1. For production claims on the label that are part of the NOP organic requirements, will separate production documentation be required or will the organic certificate suffice? These production claims include: feed grown without pesticides, access to outdoors, no antibiotics, no hormones, no rendered by-products fed, no genetically modified organisms (GMO) used, etc.

Ans. – FSIS defined claims that are consistent with the National Standards require no extra documentation to support their truthfulness. For example, the animal raising claims "animal raised without antibiotics" and "animal raised without added hormones" are consistent with the National Standards and, thus, may be applied to labeling accompanied by the organic certification. However, organic certification for poultry does not support the claim "raised without antibiotics" and undefined claims, e.g., "No GMO’s," may not be declared on labeling.

    All labels with claims must be evaluated by FSIS prior to use, regardless of whether or not they are certified as organic.

  1. May those production claims be listed on the PDP and glamour copy, as they are now?

Ans. – Yes, other animal production claims can be listed on the PDP or romance copy on the package label, and/or on point- of -purchase materials, which are also considered to be "labeling."

  1. For production claims on the label that are not covered by organic requirements, those claims would have to be applied for separately and be supported by production documentation to back up the specific claim. Correct?

Ans. – Correct, as previously stated in (b).


  1. Brand names

  1. Will brand names, which include the name Organic, be allowed as the principle brand name or will they be restricted to the signature line as is presently restricted?

Ans. – Unless the product is certified as organic, brand names will not be allowed to include the term "organic" as the "principal brand name," except where products are exempted from certification and may bear the term "organic" according to the National Standards. However, FSIS will continue to allow the word "organic" on a label as part of the manufacturer’s name only in the signature line (e.g., "Nebraska Organic Beef Company"), in an inconspicuous and non-misleading manner.

  1. Nothing in the Final Rule prohibits foods regulated by FDA from being branded with the word Organic in the brand name – if Organic in a brand name is truthful and not misleading, will meat and poultry be treated the same as non-meat foods in this regard?

Ans. – Yes, FSIS will not prohibit meat and poultry products from being labeled with the word organic in the product name or ingredients statement when there is sufficient documentation verifying that the ingredient or product was certified as organic.


  1. Transition plan

  1. What is the transition plan from the present "Certified Organic by" to "Organic"? If a producer is certified by an accredited certifier prior to Oct 2002, can they start using the "organic" label prior to Oct 2002? If allowed, then will the USDA Organic seal not be allowed prior to the Oct 2002? Can the USDA Organic seal be applied as a sticker after Oct. 2002? Will use of the seal require a separate application for approval?

Ans. – National organic standards under the Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP) became effective on April 21, 2001. On this effective date, State and private entities began applying for accreditation to become certifying agents under the National standards. It is our understanding that on or about April 21, 2002, the NOP will release a list of certifying agents that have been accredited under the National standards. Upon announcement of accredited certifying agents, the labeling provisions of the National standards will supersede the policy allowing the claim "Certified Organic By…(Certifying Entity)" for meat and poultry produced and handled by operations certified under the National standards.

From the time of the announcement of accredited certifying agents (on or about April 21, 2002) through October 21, 2002, FSIS will evaluate labels bearing the term "organic" under a dual system. During the six month timeframe, product labels with the claim "Certified Organic by…(Certifying Entity)" may continue to be submitted for evaluation and approval. Labels from companies whose production and handling operations are certified by a certifying agent accredited under the National standards and included on the NOP’s list of accredited certifying agents may submit labels for FSIS evaluation using the claim "organic." While such labels may receive FSIS approval, in accordance with the National standards, they will not be able to use the USDA organic seal until October 21, 2002, when the AMS final rule is fully implemented. Companies that continue to use "Certified Organic by…. (Certifying Entity)" claim will be expected to deplete their label supply by October 21, 2002, and comply with the National standards by that date.

The National standards do not expressly prohibit use of the word "organic" in company names or logos (e.g., signature lines), but do prohibit misuses of the word "organic." FSIS policies will continue to allow the word "organic" on a labels as part of the manufacturer’s name in the signature line (e.g., Nebraska Organic Beef Company), in a inconspicuous and non-misleading manner. According to the rule on October 21, 2002, "organic" in a company name, logo or seal-like mark, or a certifier’s seal, can not be more prominent than the USDA organic seal.


  1. When will FSIS accept label applications for the new labels or proofs? Will FSIS have adequate personnel to handle a volume of applications within a short time period?

Ans. – FSIS has the responsibility for conducting the USDA prior label approval system and has accommodated many regulatory changes in the area of labeling over the years that have been more extensive than organic labeling, e.g., the landmark changes in nutrition labeling and ingredient labeling in 1994. It is anticipated that there will not be unnecessary delays in label evaluation and approvals provided submissions are complete. Information about the policies and procedures that apply to meat and poultry labels is found on the FSIS's labeling policy website at: www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPD/larc.

  1. Is there anything on the current "Certified Organic by" labels that will make them out of compliance, either prior to or after Oct. 2002?

Ans. – Refer to the answer in 4(a).

  1. For single ingredient meat products, will FSIS implement new regulations for nutritional labeling with this time period?

Ans. – A final rule on nutrition labeling for single ingredient meat and poultry products is being developed by FSIS. It may be published some time next year. The National Standards on organic will, most likely, become effective before any new rule on nutrition labeling is published.


For further information concerning the new organic regulations, you may visit the USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service Transportation and Marketing Programs National Organic Program website address: www.ams.usda.gov/nop or e-mail: NOP.Webmaster@usda.gov.

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