[Federal Register: May 4, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 86)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 24539-24541]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr04my04-11]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

9 CFR Parts 317 and 381

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

 
Uniform Compliance Date for Food Labeling Regulations

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is proposing to 
establish 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 proposing to establish a uniform compliance 
date to minimize the economic impact of labeling changes by providing 
for an orderly industry adjustment to new labeling requirements. 
Furthermore, FSIS is establishing the uniform compliance date to be 
consistent with the approach that the Department of Health and Human 
Services, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already established.

DATES: Submit comments by July 6, 2004.

ADDRESSES: FSIS invites interested persons to submit comments on this 
proposed rule. Comments may be submitted by any of the following 
methods:

     Mail, including floppy disks or CD-ROM's, and 
hand-or courier-delivered items: Send to Docket Clerk, U.S. Department 
of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, 300 12th Street, 
SW., Room 102 Cotton Annex, Washington, DC 20250.
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov.
 Follow the online instructions at that site for 

submitting comments.
    All submissions received must include the Agency name and docket 
number 03-026P or Regulatory Information Number (RIN) 0583-AD05.
    All comments submitted in response to this proposal, as well as 
research and background information used by FSIS in developing this 
document, will be

[[Page 24540]]

available for public inspection in the FSIS Docket Room at the address 
listed above between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. 
The comments also will be posted on the Agency's Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FRDockets.htm
.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert C. Post, Ph.D., Director, 
Labeling and Consumer Protection Staff, Office of Policy and Program 
Development, Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, Washington, DC 20250-3700, Telephone (202) 205-0279, Fax 
(202) 205-3625. Copies of references cited in this document are 
available in the FSIS Docket Clerk's Office (see ADDRESSES).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) periodically issues 
regulations requiring changes in the labeling of meat and poultry food 
products. Currently, the Agency establishes a 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), 
and the FDA also periodically issues regulations requiring changes in 
the labeling of such food products. In contrast to FSIS, FDA has 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.
    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. We anticipate that FDA will publish in 
the Federal Register its next sequential uniform compliance date as 
January 1, 2008, 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 proposing to establish 
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. The Agency 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 include new 
requirements of all the 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.
    If adopted, 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 rule.
    Even if this action is adopted, it will remain the agency's 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, if adopted, 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 the 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.

Executive Order 12866

    This action has been determined to be not significant and 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 burdensome requirements.
    The elimination of potentially conflicting compliance dates 
provides 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.

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 rule 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 better ensure 
that the public and in particular that minorities, women, and persons 
with disabilities are aware of this proposed rule, FSIS will announce 
it on-line through the FSIS Web page located at 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

[[Page 24541]]

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://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 April 22, 2004.
Barbara J. Masters,
Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 04-9931 Filed 5-3-04; 8:45 am]