[Federal Register: August 7, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 152)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 41160-41162]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr07au01-20]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

9 CFR Parts 317 and 327

[Docket No. 00-036A]
RIN 0583-AC85

 
Product Labeling: Defining United States Cattle and United States 
Fresh Beef Products

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Advance notice of proposed rulemaking.

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SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is requesting 
comments on the need for regulations to clarify the definition of 
``United States cattle'' and ``United States fresh beef products'' for 
labeling purposes. FSIS also is requesting comments on whether such 
beef products should bear labeling claims that are different from the 
claims that are permitted under the Agency's current policy on beef 
products that are made from animals that are documented to have been 
born, raised, slaughtered and prepared in the United States or that 
have been produced in the United States. The Conference Report 
accompanying the Agriculture Appropriations Act for 2000 directed the 
Secretary to promulgate regulations defining which cattle and fresh 
beef products are ``Products of the U.S.A.'' The Report stated that 
clarifying regulations would facilitate the development of voluntary, 
value-added promotion programs that benefit U.S. producers, business, 
industry, consumers, and commerce.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before October 9, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Submit one original and two copies of written comments to 
FSIS Docket Clerk, Docket #00-036A, Department of Agriculture, Food 
Safety and Inspection Service, Room 102 Cotton Annex Building, 300 12th 
Street, SW., Washington, DC 20250-3700.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert C. Post, Ph.D., Director, 
Labeling and Consumer Protection Staff, Office of Policy, Program 
Development, and Evaluation, FSIS, at (202) 205-0279 or by FAX at (202) 
205-3625.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:   

Background

    The Conference Committee report that accompanied the Agriculture 
Appropriations Act of 2000 \1\ directed the Secretary of Agriculture, 
in consultation with the affected industries, to promulgate regulations 
to define which cattle and fresh beef products are Products of the 
U.S.A.'' The report also directed the Secretary to determine the 
terminology that would best reflect in labeling that such beef products 
are, in fact, U.S. products. The report stated that the conferees 
believe that there is an ``absence of clarity concerning the definition 
of S cattle and US fresh beef products. This limitation hinders the 
ability of producers to promote their products as ``Product of the 
U.S.A.''
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    \1\ Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug 
Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2000 
(Public Law 106-78; October 23, 1999).
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    The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the Department of 
Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for ensuring that meat and meat food 
products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled. The Agency 
administers a regulatory program for meat and meat products under the 
Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) (21 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). FSIS' 
regulations and program requirements also ensure that foreign countries 
exporting meat and meat food products to the United States impose 
inspection requirements that are equivalent to U. S. requirements, and 
that those countries fully implement their requirements.
    Under the mandate of FMIA, FSIS issues regulations to ensure that 
labeling bearing statements about product origins, e.g., ``USA Beef,'' 
are truthful, accurate, and not misleading. Under FSIS regulations and 
policies, producers and processors wishing to make such label 
statements must submit documentation that verifies that the statements 
are truthful and accurate. The Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) has 
the authority to establish voluntary programs under the Agricultural 
Marketing Act (7 U.S.C. 1621-1627) to verify or certify the origin of 
animals that is reflected in labeling statements. Producers wishing to 
make such statements are not required to have their production 
practices verified/certified by an AMS program.

FSIS Labeling Policy

Geographic Labeling

    FSIS regulations (9 CFR 317.8) permit fresh beef products to be 
labeled with terms such as ``U.S. (Species),'' ``U.S.A. Beef,'' and 
``Fresh American Beef.'' Such terms are viewed by the Agency as 
geographic claims associated with animal raising and production. FSIS 
interprets these terms to mean that the cattle to which the terms are 
applied were born, raised, slaughtered, and prepared in the United 
States or in specific geographic locations in the United States.
    Producers and processors voluntarily may label products with such 
geographic claims and other production claims as long as those claims 
are substantiated. To substantiate labeling claims, producers must 
provide testimonials and affidavits that include the producer's 
operational protocol that supports the labeling claim that the food 
product was derived from animals that were born, raised, slaughtered, 
and prepared in the United States.

Labeling to Meet Export Requirements

    For many years, ``Product of the U.S.A.'' has been applied to 
product that is exported to other countries to meet those countries' 
country-of-origin labeling requirements (9 CFR 327.14; FSIS Policy Memo 
080 (April 16, 1985)). Products that meet all FSIS requirements for 
domestic products also may be distributed in U.S. commerce with such 
labeling. No further documentation is required. ``Product of the 
U.S.A.'' has been applied to products that, at a minimum, have been 
prepared in the United States. It has never been construed by FSIS to 
mean that the product is derived only from animals that were born, 
raised, slaughtered, and prepared in the United States. The only 
requirement for products bearing this labeling statement is that the 
product has been prepared (i.e., slaughtered, canned, salted, rendered, 
boned, etc.). No further distinction is required. In addition, there is 
nothing to preclude the use of

[[Page 41161]]

this label statement in the domestic market, which occurs, to some 
degree.
    This term has been used on livestock products that were derived 
from cattle that originated in other countries and that were 
slaughtered and prepared in the United States. Also, the cattle could 
have been imported, raised in U.S. feed lots, and then slaughtered and 
prepared in the United States. The beef products from these cattle can 
be labeled as ``Product of the U.S.A.'' for domestic and export 
purposes.

Labeling of Imported Beef Products

    Under Section 20 of the FMIA (21 U.S.C. 620), imported beef 
products are to be treated as ``domestic'' product upon entry into the 
United States. However, all products imported into the United States 
are required to bear the name of their country of origin on the 
container in which they are shipped, as well as the number assigned by 
the foreign meat inspection system to the establishment in which they 
were prepared. If imported beef or beef products are intended to be 
sold intact to a processor, wholesaler, food service institution, 
grocer, or household consumer, the original packaging with the country-
of-origin labeling and establishment number must remain with the 
product.
    When an imported product has been further prepared, the labeling 
requirements for the resultant product are the same as for domestic 
product. The addition of a country-of-origin labeling statement is not 
required by FSIS, although the Agency would approve a label for a 
product with the original country-of-origin statement if the label 
meets all of FSIS' labeling requirements.

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service Programs

    FSIS is responsible for ensuring that meat product labels are 
truthful, accurate, and not misleading, and for maintaining control of 
product identity throughout slaughter and preparation operations. AMS' 
Meat Grading and Certification Branch conducts voluntary programs that 
verify/certify that livestock were born, raised, slaughtered, and 
prepared in the United States and, therefore, qualify to bear FSIS 
approved labeling statements that reflect this fact. No additional 
labeling is necessary.
    One of these programs is AMS' Domestic Origin Verification Program. 
The primary purpose of this program is to ensure that all raw materials 
used to produce meat and meat products purchased by USDA for federally 
funded food assistance programs (e.g., the National School Lunch 
Program operated by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service) are derived from 
U. S. produced animals, i.e., animals not imported for direct 
slaughter. Cattle born in another country (Mexico) but fed in the 
United States are eligible. The Domestic Origin Verification Program 
requires that slaughterers and processors identify themselves as 
``domestic only'' or ``segregation plan'' facilities. ``Domestic only'' 
suppliers receive a yearly audit of their procurement records to ensure 
that they comply with the U. S. produced provision. ``Segregation 
plan'' suppliers, after establishing identification and record quality 
control systems, receive quarterly audits that include interviews with 
plant management and FSIS officials to ensure compliance with U. S. 
produced provisions. Approximately 80 contractors and suppliers 
annually supply raw materials to the federally funded food assistance 
programs. AMS performs approximately 250 audits each year at an average 
cost of $450 per plant.
    AMS also has a voluntary certification program. In 1998, AMS 
proposed program guidelines to certify that livestock, meat, and meat 
products are eligible to be labeled as ``U.S. Beef'' because they are 
derived from animals that were born, raised, slaughtered, and prepared 
in the United States. To certify U. S. origin, AMS would audit 
production and preparation records. As with other AMS certification 
programs, there would be a fee for this service, and the program is 
voluntary. However, the program was never implemented, and the 
guidelines were never finalized.

Industry Petition to AMS

    In September 2000, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the 
National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the American Meat Institute, the 
National Meat Association, and the Food Marketing Institute petitioned 
AMS to create a voluntary process certification program and undertake 
rulemaking to create a process verification ``Beef: Made in the USA'' 
program. The organizations recommended that to qualify for the program, 
beef products must originate from cattle that are raised, fed a minimum 
of 100 days, and processed in the United States. AMS is responding to 
the petition in a separate action.

Request for Comments

    FSIS is requesting comments from consumers, meat producers and 
processors, retail operators, food service managers, and other 
interested persons on how best to provide for the labeling of meat 
products derived from cattle that are U.S. products. The following 
questions are provided to facilitate public comment on this ANPR.
    (1) Should cattle finished in the United States, but born and 
raised for a time in another country, be considered a product of the 
United States for USDA labeling purposes? What effects on the domestic 
and international markets would be imposed by defining which U.S. 
cattle and fresh beef products are products of the United States?
    (2) What labeling terminology would be most accurate and 
appropriate in conveying the idea that the product is a product of the 
U.S.A.? Would terms such as ``U.S. Cattle'' and ``U.S. Fresh Beef 
Products'' or ``USA Beef'' and ``Fresh American Beef'' be more 
appropriate? Are there other terms that commenters would suggest that 
would appropriately convey that the cattle and beef products originate 
in the United States?
    (3) What other kinds of verification programs does FSIS need to 
employ to ensure that the labeling terms are truthful, accurate and not 
misleading? What are the estimated costs (recordkeeping, inventory 
management, labeling, etc.) that are associated with such programs?
    (4) How can industry and FSIS aid consumers in gaining a greater 
understanding of the suggested terms used to identify a product of the 
USA? What types of information would be useful to gauge consumer 
response to a particular term used to market U.S. products? What 
factors would be influential in a consumer's decision to purchase beef 
labeled as a product of the USA?
    Information or data on related and relevant issues is welcome, and 
FSIS urges that such data and information be submitted as comments on 
this advance notice of proposed rulemaking.

Additional Public Notification

    FSIS has considered the potential civil rights impact of this 
advance notice of proposed rulemaking on minorities, women, and persons 
with disabilities. Public involvement in all segments of rulemaking and 
policy development is important. Consequently, in an effort to better 
ensure that minorities, women, and persons with disabilities are aware 
of this rulemaking and request for further comments, and are informed 
about the mechanism for providing comments, FSIS will announce it and 
provide copies of this Federal Register publication in the FSIS 
Constituent Update.
    FSIS provides a weekly FSIS Constituent Update, which is 
communicated via fax to more than 300

[[Page 41162]]

persons and organizations. In addition, the update is available on line 
through the FSIS web page at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fsis.usda.gov. The update is 
used to provide information regarding FSIS policies, procedures, 
regulations, Federal Register notices, FSIS meetings, recalls, and any 
other types of information that could affect or would be of interest to 
our constituents/shareholders. The constituent fax list consists of 
industry, trade, and farm groups, consumer interest groups, allied 
health professionals, scientific professionals, and others who have 
requested to be included. Through these various channels, FSIS is able 
to provide information to a much broader, more diverse audience. For 
more information and to be added to the constituent fax list, fax your 
request to the Congressional and Public Affairs Office at (202) 720-
5704.

    Done in Washington, DC, on: August 2, 2001.
Thomas J. Billy,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 01-19749 Filed 8-6-01; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-DM-P