[Federal Register: December 14, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 239)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 74405-74407]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr14de04-2]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

9 CFR Parts 317 and 381

[Docket No. 03-026F]
RIN 0583-AD05

 
Uniform Compliance Date for Food Labeling Regulations

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This rule announces that the Food Safety and Inspection 
Service (FSIS) is establishing January 1, 2008, as the uniform 
compliance date for new food labeling regulations that are issued 
between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2006. FSIS is establishing a 
uniform compliance date to minimize the economic impact of labeling 
changes by providing for an orderly industry adjustment to new labeling 
requirements that occur between the designated dates. Furthermore, FSIS 
is establishing the uniform compliance date approach in order to be 
consistent with the approach that the Department of Health and Human 
Services, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has already established.

EFFECTIVE DATE: This rule is effective January 13, 2005.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert C. Post, PhD., Director, 
Labeling and Consumer Protection Staff, Office of Policy, Program, and 
Employee Development, Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC 20250-3700, Telephone (202) 
205-0279, Fax (202) 205-3625.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) periodically issues 
regulations that require changes in the labeling of meat and poultry 
food products. Currently, the Agency

[[Page 74406]]

establishes a separate compliance date for each new labeling regulation 
that it publishes. Many meat and poultry establishments also produce 
non-meat and non-poultry food products subject to the jurisdiction of 
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA also periodically issues 
regulations that require changes in the labeling of such food products. 
In contrast to FSIS, FDA has established a standard uniform compliance 
date for all of its food labeling regulations that are issued during a 
given two year period. FSIS has determined that coordinating the 
effective dates of its labeling changes and FDA's labeling changes will 
minimize the economic impact of those changes on the industry.
    Therefore, FSIS believes that there should be a uniform compliance 
date for all food product labeling regulations affecting meat and 
poultry establishments that are issued within a two year period. Such a 
compliance date will ensure that changes will take effect on a timely 
basis, but that companies will not have to respond separately to each 
change as it occurs.
    In December 2002, FDA established January 1, 2006, as the uniform 
compliance date for all Federal food labeling regulations affecting 
non-meat and non-poultry food products which it issues between January 
1, 2003, and December 31, 2004. FSIS anticipates that FDA will publish 
a notice in the Federal Register establishing January 1, 2008, as its 
next sequential uniform compliance date for food labeling regulations 
issued between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2006. Therefore, in 
order to harmonize its compliance schedule with that of FDA, FSIS is 
establishing January 1, 2008, as the uniform compliance date for 
amendments to the Federal meat and poultry food product labeling 
regulations that it issues between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 
2006.
    Like FDA, FSIS intends to set uniform compliance dates in two year 
increments. FSIS believes that two year increments will enhance the 
industry's ability to make orderly adjustments to new labeling 
requirements. Industry will be able to plan for the use of label 
inventories and develop new labeling materials that meet the 
requirements of all labeling regulations made within the two year 
period, thereby minimizing the economic impact of labeling changes. By 
establishing a uniform compliance date that is the same as FDA's, FSIS 
is providing the meat and poultry industry with a greater ability to 
adjust its production plans to new labeling requirements across all of 
its product lines.
    Establishing this policy serves consumers' interests because the 
cost of multiple short-term label revisions that would otherwise occur 
would likely be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. 
This action will not change existing requirements for compliance dates 
contained in final rules published before January 1, 2005. Therefore, 
all final FSIS regulations published in the Federal Register before 
January 1, 2005, will go into effect on the date stated in the 
respective final rules.
    It will remain FSIS' policy generally to encourage industry to 
comply with new labeling regulations as quickly as feasible. Thus, when 
industry members voluntarily change their labels, they should consider 
incorporating any new requirements that have been published as final 
regulations up to that time.
    The new uniform compliance date will apply only to final FSIS 
regulations that require changes in the labeling of meat and poultry 
products and that are published after January 1, 2005, and before 
December 31, 2006. In each of these regulations, FSIS will specifically 
identify January 1, 2008, as the compliance date. All meat and poultry 
food products that are subject to labeling regulations promulgated 
between January 1, 2005, to December 31, 2006, will be required to 
comply with these regulations when introduced into commerce on or after 
January 1, 2008. If any food labeling regulation involves special 
circumstances that justify a compliance date other than January 1, 
2008, the agency will determine for that regulation an appropriate 
compliance date, which will be specified when the final regulation is 
published.

Comments and Responses

    FSIS proposed to make this change in the Federal Register of May 4, 
2004 (69 FR 24539). FSIS received four comments on the proposal, all of 
which came from trade associations. All four commenters fully supported 
FSIS' proposal to establish a policy to enact a uniform compliance date 
approach to food labeling consistent with that of the FDA.

Executive Order 12866: Benefit-Cost Analysis

    This action has been determined not to be significant and it 
therefore has not been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget 
in accordance with Executive Order 12866. Establishing a uniform 
compliance date for all future Federal food product labeling 
regulations affecting the meat and poultry industry that are issued by 
FSIS and FDA over a two year period will eliminate potentially 
burdensome requirements otherwise faced by the industry. This measure 
is consistent with regulatory reform of Federal rulemaking in that it 
eliminates potentially unnecessary and onerous requirements.
    The elimination of potentially conflicting compliance dates for 
labeling requirements between meat and poultry products and non-meat 
and non-poultry products provides for an orderly industry adjustment to 
any new labeling requirements. Labeling changes in response to Federal 
regulations will likely be less frequent, and establishments will be 
able to plan for full utilization of their labeling stocks.

Need for the Rule

    Establishing uniform compliance dates for food labeling regulations 
issued within specified time periods minimizes the economic impact of 
label changes for industry and may indirectly benefit consumers if cost 
savings are passed on in the form of lower prices. Further, FSIS is 
establishing the uniform compliance date to be consistent with the 
approach which the FDA has already established.

Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    This rule does not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities; consequently, an initial 
regulatory flexibility analysis is not required (5 U.S.C. 601-612). The 
uniform compliance date does not impose any burden on small entities. 
The agency will conduct regulatory flexibility analyses of future 
labeling regulations if such analyses are required.

Paperwork Requirements

    There are no paperwork or recordkeeping requirements associated 
with this policy under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 
3501-3520).

Additional Public Notification

    Public awareness of all segments of rulemaking and policy 
development is important. Consequently, in an effort to ensure that the 
public and in particular minorities, women, and persons with 
disabilities, are aware of this final rule, FSIS will announce it on-
line through the FSIS Web page located at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fsis.usda.gov.

    The Regulations.gov Web site is the central online rulemaking 
portal of the United States government. It is being offered as a public 
service to increase participation in the Federal government's 
regulatory activities. FSIS

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participates in Regulations.gov and will accept comments on documents 
published on the site. The site allows visitors to search by keyword or 
Department or Agency for rulemakings that allow for public comment. 
Each entry provides a quick link to a comment form so that visitors can 
type in their comments and submit them to FSIS. The Web site is located 
at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.regulations.gov.

    FSIS also will make copies of this Federal Register publication 
available through the FSIS Constituent Update, which is used to provide 
information regarding FSIS policies, procedures, regulations, Federal 
Register notices, FSIS public meetings, recalls, and other types of 
information that could affect or would be of interest to our 
constituents and stakeholders. The update is communicated via Listserv, 
a free e-mail subscription service consisting of industry, trade, and 
farm groups, consumer interest groups, allied health professionals, 
scientific professionals, and other individuals who have requested to 
be included. The update also is available on the FSIS web page. Through 
Listserv and the web page, FSIS is able to provide information to a 
much broader, more diverse audience.

    Done in Washington, DC, on: November 18, 2004.
Barbara J. Masters,
Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 04-27335 Filed 12-13-04; 8:45 am]