[Federal Register: January 18, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 11)]
[Page 2257-2258]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Food Safety and Inspection Service

[Docket No. FSIS-2006-0040E]

Product Labeling: Definition of the Term ``Natural''

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of petition and public meeting; extension of comment 


SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is re-opening 
and extending the comment period on a petition submitted by Hormel 
Foods on the voluntary labeling claim ``natural'' and on the broader 
question of how to define this claim. The original comment period 
closed on January 11, 2007. The Agency is taking this action in 
response to requests that were made at and after a public meeting that 
the Agency held on December 12, 2006, to discuss both the Hormel 
petition and issues associated with the claim ``natural'' in general.

DATES: Comments are due by March 5, 2007.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:
    Federal eRulemaking Portal: This Web site provides the ability to 
type short comments directly into the comment field on this Web page or 
attach a file for lengthier comments. Go to http://www.regulations.gov 

and, in the ``Search for Open Regu1ations'' box, select ``Food Safety 
and Inspection Service'' from the agency drop-down menu, and then click 
on ``Submit.'' In the Docket ID column, select FDMS Docket Number FSIS-
2005-0040 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and 
related material available electronically. This docket can be viewed 
using the ``Advanced Search'' function in Regulations.gov.
    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.
    Electronic mail: 
    All submissions received by mail and electronic mail must include 
the Agency name and docket number FSIS-2006-0040. All comments 
submitted in response to this notice will be 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 to the regulations.gov Web site and on the Agency's Web site 
at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/2007_Notices_Index/index.asp.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert C. Post, Director, Labeling and 
Consumer Protection Staff, Office of Policy, Program, and Employee 
Development, USDA, FSIS, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 
20250, (202) 205-3625, e-mail: Robert.Post@fsis.usda.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On December 5, 2006, FSIS published a notice 
in the Federal Register that announced the receipt of a petition 
submitted by Hormel Foods requesting that the Agency amend the meat 
inspection and poultry products inspection regulations to establish a 
definition for the voluntary claim ``natural'' and to delineate the 
conditions under which the claim can be used on the labels of meat and 
poultry products (71 FR 70503). In the notice, FSIS gave the public 
until January 11, 2007, to submit comments on the petition and on 
issues associated with the claim ``natural'' in general. The notice 
also announced that, to facilitate the comment process, the Agency 
would hold a public meeting to discuss the petition. The public meeting 
was held on December 12, 2006. In the December 5, 2006, Federal 
Register notice, FSIS also announced that after the comment period for 
the petition closes, the Agency will initiate rulemaking on the 
``natural'' claim.
    At, as well as after, the December 12, 2006, public meeting, FSIS 
received several comments requesting that the Agency extend the comment 
period provided in the December 5, 2006, Federal Register notice by an 
additional 60 days from the initial closing date of January 11, 2007. 
The comments were submitted by a representative of a food ingredient 
manufacturer, a trade association that represents flavor manufacturers 
and others with an

[[Page 2258]]

interest in the U.S. flavor industry, and a group of trade associations 
that represent the meat, poultry, and food processing industries.
    All of the comments stated that because the issues surrounding the 
claim ``natural'' are complex, interested parties need additional time 
than what was provided in the December 5, 2006, Federal Register notice 
to prepare thoughtful comments. The comments also argued that, to 
properly consider issues associated with the petition and the claim 
``natural,'' stakeholders must have access to the information presented 
by both FSIS and the public at the December 12, 2006, public meeting. 
One comment stated that it is important that stakeholders have the 
opportunity to thoroughly evaluate possible changes to the definition 
or criteria for labeling a meat or poultry product ``natural'' to 
ensure that the industry is able to continue to market products that 
bear the ``natural'' claim and to ensure that these products meet 
consumer expectations.
    In addition to the reasons discussed above, the comments also 
argued that because the comment period includes the upcoming holidays, 
trade associations may have a difficult time collecting meaningful 
input from their members before the January 11, 2007, closing date. The 
comments also stated that the comment period falls during what is 
typically the busiest time of year for meat and poultry companies. One 
comment stated that FSIS gave little notice before the December 12, 
2006, public meeting, and that interested parties lost time preparing 
comments for the public meeting and rearranging their schedules to 
attend the public meeting.
    FSIS agrees that the issues surrounding the labeling claim 
``natural'' are complex, and that interested parties should have 
additional time to consider information presented at the December 12, 
2006, public meeting. Therefore, to facilitate the comment process, the 
Agency has decided to re-open and extend the comment period until March 
5, 2007. The transcript of the December 12, 2006, public meeting is now 
available on the FSIS Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/2006_events/index.asp
 for viewing by the public. Therefore, 

this notice announces that the Agency is re-opening and extending the 
comment period for the Hormel petition until March 5, 2007.

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 proposal, FSIS will announce it on-line 
through the FSIS Web page located at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/2007_Notices_Index/index.asp

    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 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.
    In addition, FSIS offers an email subscription service which 
provides automatic and customized access to selected food safety news 
and information. This service is available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/news_and_events/email_subscription/

    Options range from recalls to export information to regulations, 
directives and notices. Customers can add or delete subscriptions 
themselves and have the option to password protect their account.

    Done in Washington, DC: January 12, 2007.
Barbara J. Masters,
[FR Doc. 07-192 Filed 1-12-07; 3:10 pm]