Compliance Guidelines for
The Retained Water In Raw Meat And Poultry Products (January 9, 2001)
final rule requires that establishments produce
those products with either no retained water or only the amount of water that
is an unavoidable consequence of the process to meet food safety standards,
such as the Salmonella performance standards. The amount of water
retained must be specified on the product label. As noted in the preamble to
the final rule, the Agency is not prescribing a method to determine added or
retained water. The Agency is, however, requiring the establishment to
prepare and have on file a written data collection protocol and the data for
determining unavoidable moisture retention. If the establishment has data on
file regarding retained water, such as antimicrobial spray testing for meat
or air chilling for poultry, additional data collection may not be necessary.
In addition to the final rule, FSIS is issuing these compliance guidelines
with attached model data collection protocols. These compliance guidelines
are designed to assist establishments in developing their data collection
protocols, maintaining operational control of their process, and properly
labeling the finished product.
Protocols for data collection must be placed on file and made available to
FSIS. The Agency will review the protocols. The nine expected elements of a
protocol are listed below. Examples of expected content are noted for each
element. In the examples, the term chilling refers to poultry and cooling
refers to meat.
State the primary purpose of the protocol. The primary purpose should be
to determine the amount or percentage of retained water that is
unavoidable while achieving the regulatory performance standard for
Salmonella and the time/temperature requirements for chilling.
Additional purposes could be to evaluate product quality and to determine
chilling system efficiency.
Example 1: The primary purpose of this protocol is to determine the
amount of water absorption and retention by young chicken carcasses that
is unavoidable while meeting the regulatory pathogen reduction standard
for Salmonella set forth in the PR/HACCP regulations [9
CFR 381.94] and the time/temperature requirements set forth in
9 CFR 381.66.
Example 2: The primary purpose of this protocol is to determine the
amount of water absorption and retention by beef carcasses that is
unavoidable while meeting the regulatory pathogen reduction standard for
Salmonella set forth in the PR/HACCP regulations
CFR 310.25(b)]. The protocol also will be used to
evaluate product quality.
Type of washing and chilling/cooling system used by the establishment.
Describe any post-evisceration washing or chilling/cooling processes that
affect the water retention levels by, and microbial loads, on raw
products. For poultry establishments, describe the main chiller types,
e.g., the drag-through, the screw type, and the rocker-arm type,
identified by the mechanism used to transport the birds through the
chiller or to agitate the water in the chiller. For meat establishments,
describe the type of coolers, e.g., blast freezers, refrigeration
systems, or hot boxes.
Configuration and any modifications of the chiller/cooling system
Describe the chiller/cooling-system configurations and modifications,
including the number and type of chillers/coolers in a series and
arrangements of chilling/cooling system components, and the number of
evisceration/kill lines feeding into a chiller/cooling system. Accurately
describe the purpose and type of equipment used if there is a
pre-chilling/cooling step in the process. Describe any mechanical or
design changes to the chilling/cooling equipment.
Special features in the chilling/cooling process.
Describe any special features in the chilling/cooling process, including
antimicrobial treatments, length and velocity of the dripping line, and
total time allowed for dripping. Explain any special apparatus, such as a
mechanism for removing excessive water from cooled meat or chilled birds.
Description of variable factors in the chilling/cooling system.
Describe variable factors that affect water absorption and retention.
In poultry processing, such factors include:
pressure and amount of buffeting applied to the birds by feather removal
machinery and its effect on loosening the skin
method used to open the bird for evisceration
temperature of the pre-chiller
water temperature of chiller
agitation including air agitation if used
time in the chiller water
In meat processing, such factors include:
scalding temperature (hog carcasses)
amount and intervals of antimicrobial chill sprays
time in cooler rooms
Standards to be met by the chilling system.
The Salmonella pathogen reduction standards, as set forth in the PR/HACCP
final rule, have been suggested as the standard for pathogen minimization.
Although there is not yet an applicable Salmonella standard for
turkeys, guidance standards are listed in Attachment 4 of
FSIS Notice 22-01, "Procedures for
FSIS personnel during pre-implementation period for ?Retained water in raw
meat and poultry products; poultry chilling requirements.?" (A permanent
FSIS Directive will replace this Notice.) As stated in the Notice,
establishments producing turkey products are free to adopt other
microbiological targets or surrogate microorganisms, such as E. coli,
Campylobacter, or reductions in numbers of other microorganisms.
However, the acceptability of the surrogate microorganism in raw poultry or
meat depends on an expert determination that there is a correlation between
the surrogate and Salmonella.
The chilling system for ready-to-cook poultry may be designed simply to
achieve a reduction in the temperature to less than 40°F within the time
limit specified by the regulations On the other hand, the time for
temperature reduction in meat may be based on that amount of time, or less,
necessary to meet the performance standard for Salmonella and
minimize the retention of water in the final product.
Testing methods to be employed.
Describe testing methods used both for measuring water absorption and
retention and for sampling and testing product for pathogen reductions at
various chilling equipment settings and chilling time-and-temperature
combinations. The method for calculating water absorption and retention
should be reproducible and statistically verifiable. For pathogen reduction
testing, FSIS recommends the methods used for E. coli and
Salmonella testing under the PR/HACCP regulations. The pathogen
reduction standards are based on a percentage of positive samples rather
than the microbial load per carcass or carcass part. The number of samples,
type of samples, sampling time period, type of testing or measurement, and
the test results should be included.
The trials should represent processing procedures that can be maintained in
the establishment. It is understood that very small plants or those
establishments producing a very small volume of the product may experience a
greater variation in measurements than plants producing a large volume of
Initially, the establishment would perform several trials to determine the
amount of unavoidable retained water, if any, in achieving the food safety
standard. The establishment would have to determine the variables in the
process that would affect the amount of retained water. For example, time in
the chiller/cooler may be a variable to consider. In each trial the water
retention data and Salmonella levels would be plotted. When the water
retention data showed an increase in Salmonella, the time in the
chiller/cooler before the increase could be the maximum amount of time
allowable. However, if an antimicrobial rinse was used, the amount of time
in the chiller/cooler may be further reduced.
The primary purpose of the protocol is to determine the amount or percentage
of retained water that is unavoidable while achieving the regulatory
performance standard for Salmonella. However, the percentage of
samples positive for Salmonella should not increase. It would not be
regarded as acceptable to reduce the amount of retained water with a
resultant increase in Salmonella, or surrogate microorganism, even if
the increase in Salmonella met the performance standard.
Reporting of data and evaluation of results.
Explain how data obtained are to be reported and summarized. Examples of
reported information include, but are not limited to, the number of sample
replicates, reporting of Salmonella, and the calculation or formula
used to determine the level of water retention. In addition, the criteria
for evaluating the results and the basis for conclusions to be drawn should
Explain what the data demonstrate, the conclusions reached, and how the
conclusions were reached.
Once a meat or poultry establishment has determined the amount of water that
is unavoidable in meeting applicable food safety requirements, the
establishment must keep the water retention level in its products from
exceeding that amount. The establishment must be able to ensure, on a
continuing basis, that the amount of retained water in its raw products is
CFR 441.10.10(b)), and that the product labels state the amount of
retained water (9
CFR 441.10(b)). To be able to do this consistently, the establishment
should have good process control.
A process would be considered under control if there is a reasonable
confidence (i.e., 95% statistical confidence) that a given package in a lot
retains no more water than is unavoidable. That is, considering measurement
and processing variables, there should be 95% confidence that the continuing
measurements are within 20% of the moisture level determined at that
If the establishment fails to meet the performance standards for E. coli
and Salmonella, it should consider reevaluating its process with
regard to retained water in addition to reassessing its HACCP plan.
Labeling Retained Water Products
Establishments will be required to include a retained water statement on
labeling of raw, single-ingredient, whole, ground or cut-up meat or poultry
products that retain water that is used in meeting food safety requirements
during post-evisceration processing, e.g., chilling. Retained water is not
regarded as intentionally added or as a product ingredient. However, the
labeling of products with retained water must bear a prominent statement on
the principal display panel disclosing the maximum amount of water, and how
it got incorporated, e.g., "contains up to X% retained water," or "with X%
absorbed water." The retained water statement must be prominently located on
the principal display panel of the label and could be contiguous to the name
of the product. Refer to Retained Water Sample
Prominence of the retained water statement is determined by several factors,
including size of lettering in the statement compared with other lettering on
the label, location of the statement, and color contrast between the
lettering and the background. There is no specific letter size requirement
for the percent-retained water statement.
Establishments having data or information to demonstrate that their products
do not contain retained water will not be required to label the products with
such a statement and could include a "no retained water" claim on the label.
Processors can modify existing labels by use of pressure sensitive stickers
or indelible ink rubber stamps bearing the percent-retained water statement
or a "no retained water" claim. This type of label change is possible under
the generic label approval regulations.
The generic labeling regulations
9 CFR 317.5 and
381.133 and the nutrition labeling regulations
9 CFR Part 317 Subpart B and
Part 381 Subpart Y apply to retained water products as they do to other
Multi-ingredient product labeling is not affected by retained water in a meat
or poultry component. Thus, retained water is not an ingredient, and the
retained water statement on meat or poultry components is not an ingredient
declaration. Refer to product
1. Any retained water in raw meat or poultry items used as ingredients would
not be declared on the labeling of multi-ingredient products, e.g., raw or
cooked sausage, pre-basted turkeys, or deli meats.
2. Retained water has no effect on the declared amount of flavor solution in
basted, marinated, injected, tumbled, etc. products.
3. Standards of identity or composition are not affected by the retained
Labeling Questions and Answers
The Q&A's numbered from 1 through 18 first appeared in
1. If a plant determines through testing that the amount of retained
moisture in a particular item is a fractional percentage (e.g., 0.3, 0.4,
0.5, or 1.3 percent, etc.), how would the agency expect this to be labeled?
Answer: As with nutritional labeling, rounding rules would apply (i.e.,
round to the nearest whole number). Therefore, labeling of fractional
percentages of retained water would not be required. For example, 0.5
percent-retained water is rounded up to 1 percent and 1.3 percent is rounded
down to 1 percent.
2. Are labeling statements permitted explaining the purpose of the retained
water, e.g., "for safety purposes contains up to X percent retained water?"
Answer: Explanatory statements regarding the retained water will be
reviewed by the Labeling and Consumer Protection Staff on a case-by-case
basis since they are viewed as special claims. The statements will be
evaluated to determine whether they misrepresent products or imply that
products are safer than other similarly chilled products.
3. Is there a size requirement for the prominent lettering in the
Answer: There is no letter size requirement for the
percent-retained-water statement, but if the lettering is inconspicuous or
not visible to consumers with normal visual acuity, it is not prominent.
Prominence is determined by several factors, including size of lettering in
the statement compared with other lettering on the label, location of the
statement, and color contrast between the lettering and the background.
4. Can the term "moisture" be used instead of the term "water" within the
retained water statement?
Answer: The term "moisture" is not acceptable since it does not convey
the specific substance used during the post-evisceration chilling of the
5. Is the retained water statement required on a shipping container label
when the product inside is packaged and labeled?
Answer: The shipping container is not required to bear a retained water
statement since the regulation addressing the labeling of retained water
products applies to the principal display panel of immediate containers.
Shipping containers holding packaged and labeled products do not have
principal display panels.
6. Most meat carcasses, half carcasses, and primals are shipped from
the establishment with only the mark of inspection identifying them. If the
carcass gains water as a result of the chilling process, a water retention
statement is required. How could an establishment meet this requirement if
it is shipping full and half carcasses and primals to other establishments
for further processing into retail cuts, ground beef, etc?
Answer: Retained water in red meat carcasses, half carcasses, quarters,
primals, or byproducts that are simply branded with a mark of inspection
would also need to be declared with a prominent retained water statement.
This could be accomplished by adding the retained water statement by
branding or affixing with a secure tag.
7. Can pressure sensitive stickers be used to modify the percent-retained
water statement and is handwriting permitted for the value of the retained
Answer: Pressure sensitive stickers may be applied to labeling to modify
the percent-retained water statement. This type of change is a generic
approval. Handwriting is not permitted for the value of the retained water
because a legibility factor involved with handwriting. The value should be
uniform and produced by mechanical means as with other mandatory features.
8. The label contains a "no retained water" claim. Does the 20 percent
Answer: The 20 percent variation permitted for the retained water
statement would not apply when a no retained water claim is made on
labeling. Rounding rules apply. Thus, the product could not retain more than
0.49 percent water such that the rounded amount of water is 0 percent.
9. How does retained water affect restricted ingredients, e.g., bacon?
Answer: The levels for restricted ingredients remain the same as
indicated in the substance chart,
9 CFR 424.21(c), e.g., sodium nitrite and sodium erythorbate are based
on the weight of the meat or poultry product regardless of the amount of
water possibly retained in the meat or poultry as a result of
10. Does the regulation cover products that may be treated with water which
produces no gain in net weight of the finished product?
Answer: The regulation, including its requirement of the submission of
protocols, deals with products for which the manufacturer anticipates a
particular water-based weight gain, is targeting its procedures to control
that gain, and will label its products accordingly. As a result,
establishments that anticipate zero weight gain are not required to develop
and submit protocols. Such establishments should, however, maintain records
that demonstrate through data or information that their product does not
gain water as a result of the process.
11. Does the regulation apply to intermediate (in-process) processing steps?
Answer: No. The regulation focuses on the labeling of single-ingredient
finished products as they leave the establishment. Procedures, such as the
application of antimicrobial solutions or of water that may temporarily
contribute weight to the product, need not be declared. However,
establishments are expected to maintain data clearly demonstrating that the
finished products do not retain water.
12. Is it acceptable to export products with retained water without labeling
bearing a percentage retained water statement?
Answer: Deviations from domestic labeling rules are permitted in
9 CFR 317.7 or
381.128. However, the labeling record at the Federal establishment
and in the label submission must assure that the labeling deviation is in
accordance with the specifications of the foreign purchaser and with the
laws of the foreign country. Additionally, the shipping container must
be labeled to show that the product is intended for export. The
documentation can be provided by the importer, the exporter, or an official
with the foreign government of the country to which the product is destined.
(NOTE: Labels for export product that deviate from the domestic requirements
cannot be generically approved and must be submitted to the Labeling and
Consumer Protection Staff for approval).
13. Can one document, i.e., letter, be applied to multiple products for
Answer: Yes, if the documentation is complete by indicating all
exported products with labeling deviations and is only for the country to
which the products are destined.
14. Does the retained water rule apply to ice-glazed poultry?
Answer: Yes. A retained water statement is required because the product
is single ingredient regardless of whether the product is ice-glazed or not.
The ice-glaze is not an ingredient; its purpose is to prevent shrinkage
15. How are single-ingredient products with retained water (e.g., bearing
contains X percent retained water statements) handled when they are sent in
bulk to retail stores for packaging? What effect would in-store cut-up or
grinding operations have on the labeling of single-ingredient products with
retained water at the retail store?
Answer: The retained water statement that is applied to the cuts or
ground products would be the same as the retained water statement that was
applied to the bulk product. However, the retail store may choose to show
through documentation that less or no water is retained in the cuts or
ground product and to label the product accordingly.
16. What happens to a product when the retained water declaration exceeds
the 20 percent label declaration?
Answer: The company has two options. One is to accurately re-label the
product. The other option would be to allow the product to drain so that the
retained water statement is truthful. This may involve re-packaging the
product unless the product is ice pack poultry in drainable containers.
17. How is the retained water statement handled with chitterlings since the
product is allowed to be packaged with up to a 20 percent purge?
Answer: Many years ago, before 1992, FSIS allowed, under normal
conditions and good manufacturing practices, purge in containers of
chitterlings not to exceed 20 percent of the marked weight of the product.
The policy is long-held and is practiced industry wide. Consumers who
purchase this product are aware of the policy and practice and have come to
expect moisture content in chitterlings. As a result of this long-standing
policy, no retained water statement is required when chitterlings are
packaged with a purge. If chitterlings retain water during post evisceration
processing and are not packaged with a purge, the product?s labeling is
required to bear a retained water statement.
18. What is FSIS position regarding the use of water in thawing process?
Answer: Frozen meat, meat byproducts, poultry, or poultry byproducts are
often thawed using chilled water. Establishments have to assess whether the
product is absorbing water during the thawing process. If the final product
is raw, single-ingredient, and absorbed water during the thawing process, a
retained water statement is necessary. However, if the final product is
subsequently processed into a multi-ingredient item or cooked, the retained
water is not a labeling or standards concern.
Labeling Questions and Answers Not Addressed in Directive 6700.1,
General Labeling Issues
19. Is ice chilling of single-ingredient product subject to the retained
Answer: Yes when ice is directly applied to single-ingredient raw carcasses
or parts for food safety purposes and the product consequently gains water,
they are subject to the retained water regulation. Similarly, raw
single-ingredient carcasses or parts mixed with iced used for food safety
purposes that are consequently processed into single-ingredient products are
subject to the retained water rule, e.g., iced frames and/or shells
processed through a mechanical deboner for mechanically separated poultry.
Water in excess of naturally occurring moisture at a level at or above 0.5
percent would require a prominent retained water declaration on the label.
The establishment must maintain a written data-collection protocol on file
in accordance with the retained water regulation. Conversely, an
establishment does not have to maintain a protocol on file if it has data or
information that clearly demonstrate that its raw single-ingredient product
does not retain water as a result of a food safety process, e.g. ice
chilling of frames or shells for food safety purposes where the end product
does not retain water from the ice treatment.
20. Is it acceptable to indicate the percentage of retained water on a
pricing label that is placed on the principal display panel of raw
single-ingredient parts packaged in a tray-pack or a raw single-ingredient
carcass in a bag? Would the statement on a pricing label meet the
requirement that the statement is on the principal display panel?
Answer: Yes, the location requirement is met when the retained water
statement is placed on the weight and price sticker (in an area that is not
intended for the weight or price), which is subsequently placed on the
principal display panel. Of course, the retained water statement must be
21. Can the retained water statement be placed on a hang-tag at the
neck of a netted bag containing a vacuum packaged meat or poultry product
with retained water?
Answer: Yes, the retained water statement can be placed on a hang-tag
as long as the statement is prominent and readily visible to the consumer.
22. Can meat or poultry with retained water be irradiated?
Answer: Yes, in accordance with the current Federal meat and poultry
23. Can meat or poultry with retained water bear the claims natural,"
"100 %," or "pure?"
Answer: Yes, in accordance with the regulations and policies on the use
of these claims.
24. If the water retention statement is added to a bi-lingual label,
does it need to be in both languages?
Answer: Yes, the water retention statement should be in both languages.
25. Are giblets that are inserted into the cavity of a whole poultry
carcass subject to the retained water regulations?
Answer: Yes. A whole carcass with giblets is regarded as a single-ingredient
product in the same manner that a package of poultry parts, e.g.,
drumsticks, thighs and breasts are a single ingredient product.
26. How is mixed percent meat or poultry with retained water labeled
when packaged together, e.g., packaged cuts or whole birds packaged with
necks and giblets?
Answer: The labeling for meat or poultry with retained water from
different sources bearing different retained water statements can be easily
accomplished by labeling the product with a highest range statement from the
multiple suppliers, e.g., "less than 6% retained water." A range statement
with the highest value clearly indicates that a range is present, e.g., "may
contain up to X% retained water" or "not more than X% absorbed water." As an
option, the label could bear separate retained water statements for each
item within the package, e.g., "whole bird with 5% retained water, necks
with 3% retained water and giblets with up to 2% retained water."
27. Could check-off blocks be used on immediate container labeling for
identifying different retained water statements?
Answer: Yes, provided, establishment operators develop a control
procedure which would ensure correct labeling of the packaging of end
products that look alike but contain varying amounts of retained (absorbed)
water. The procedure should demonstrate what steps the establishment
operators will take so the appropriate retained water statement check-off
block will be marked and how the company will monitor the product to ensure
proper labeling. The procedure is part of the labeling record. This
information is similar to FSIS
Directive 7220.1, Policy Memo 083A Check-Off Blocks on Labeling.
28. Can the labeling of product that has been fabricated into cuts or
ground products from carcasses and parts bear retained water statements with
lesser values or no value?
Answer: Yes, however, the company should have data on file that shows
the loss. The method used for determining the loss is the company?s choice
but results of the data should be reproducible and verifiable.
29. Can an average be used for the retained water statement when meat
or poultry with different retained water levels is packaged together and
Answer: No, the labeling would bear a statement reflecting the highest
range, e.g., "less than 4% retained water" or "contains up to 3% retained
water" unless the company can document a loss. The method used is up to the
company but the results should be reproducible and verifiable.
30. Can an added solution statement like those on marinated product
labeling be used in place of a retained water statement?
Answer: No, an added solution statement may not be used on a raw,
single-ingredient meat or poultry products in which retained water is merely
the by-product of a process intended to meet applicable food safety
requirements. Added solution statements are only permissible when water is
used as an ingredient rather than absorbed during a process intended to
achieve a food safety objective.
31. Are absorbent pads used to absorb moisture in packages of product
part of the net weight of the product?
Answer: It varies depending upon the jurisdiction, i.e., wet tare
jurisdiction versus dry tare jurisdiction to determine net weight.
Compliance with net weight regulations is determined by following the
wet-tare and dry-tare procedures in National Institute of Standards and
Technology Handbook 133, which are incorporated by reference in FSIS
9 CFR 317.19 and
32. Can retained water in the product be tared out of the net weight
so that the retained water statement does not have to be labeled?
33. Can the purge during shipping and distribution be subtracted from
the amount of retained water absorbed during post-evisceration processing
for the purpose of labeling with the retained water statement based on the
loss of the purge?
34. Can a rubber stamp with indelible ink be used to mark labeling
with the retained water statement?
Answer: Yes, the marking of labeling with a rubber stamp coated with
indelible ink is permissible as long as the statement is prominent and
located on the principal display panel.
35. Is mechanically separated meat or poultry subject to the retained
Answer: Yes, as long as the product is raw and single-ingredient.
36. Do insert labels have to bear a retained water statement?
Answer: No. They are not required to bear the retained water
statement. While the insert label is not required to bear the retained water
statement, the retained water statement must prominently appear on the
principal display panel.
37. Are raw single-ingredient meat and poultry products processed
prior to January 9, 2003, and warehoused in cold storage subject to the
retained water rule?
Answer: Product processed prior to January 9, 2003, is not governed by
the retained water rule.
38. Can export labels with labeling deviations be generically approved
instead of sending the labeling applications to the Labeling and Consumer
Protection Staff for sketch approval?
Answer: The generically approved label regulations do not provide for
generic approval of labeling with deviations, which is why generic label
approval is not acceptable. Labeling with deviations have to receive sketch
approved from the Labeling, Consumer and Protection Staff until the generic
labeling regulations are changed.
39. Are giblets that are inserted into the cavity of a basted turkey
carcass subject to the retained water regulations?
Answer: No, the retained water statement for the giblets is not required
on the labeling of the basted turkey because the giblets are packaged within
a multi-ingredient product. Retained water statements are not mandatory on
multi-ingredient product labeling since multi-ingredient product labeling is
not affected by retained water.
40. The product is a single-ingredient whole duck with giblets but
which may contain a packet of stuffing or sauce. Is a water retention
Answer: Yes, when a sauce or stuffing packet is indicated as "free"
on the duck label, the duck with giblets would have to be labeled with a
retained water statement if the carcass and/or giblets has absorbed any post
evisceration water. In such a situation, the duck with giblets would still
be regarded as a single-ingredient product since only the duck with giblets
is sold. The labeling would have to include information regarding the
packet, e.g., a product name qualifier "free sauce (stuffing) packet," and
an ingredients statement. On the other hand, when a sauce or stuffing packet
is packaged with the duck and giblets, and not labeled as free, the product
is a multi-ingredient product, and the retained water statement for the
whole duck with giblets is not mandatory.
41. Can salt be added to a chiller for poultry carcasses and parts? If
that is possible, is a retained water statement necessary?
Answer: Salt is a permitted additive in chill water for raw poultry
products according to
9 CFR 424.21. When the amount of salt is 70 pounds or below in 10,000
gallons of water, the salt would not need to be labeled because it would be
an incidental additive. A retained water statement would then be mandatory
if the product absorbed the chiller solution. On the other hand, when salt
is in amounts from above 70 pounds up to 700 pounds per 10,000 gallons of
water, the water and salt would have to be declared since both substances
are additives. A special labeling statement would be required, e.g., "Brine
Chilled in Water and Salt" or "Chilled in Water and Salt." When the pickup
of the solution in the carcasses or parts is less than 0.5 percent, the
product would not need a percentage declaration in the special labeling
statement. In situations where the pickup of the solution is 0.5 percent or
greater, the special labeling statement would include the percent of
solution rounded to the nearest whole number, e.g., "Chilled in 1% Water and
42. Do the antimicrobial solutions need to be declared on the label?
Answer: When approved antimicrobial agents are used in meat or poultry
processing for the momentary reduction of microorganisms, and are determined
by FSIS to be consistent with FDA's definition of an incidental additive (21
CFR 101.100(a)(3)), they do not require
labeling. The treatment of meat or poultry with an approved antimicrobial
agent in water should not result in the product retaining any water.
Therefore, as long as an establishment can demonstrate that no water is
absorbed during, prior, or subsequent to processing steps, such as chilling,
a meat or poultry product's labeling would not need to bear a retained water
Exemptions or Religious Dietary Product Labeling
43. Is meat or poultry with retained water that will be shipped for
further processing exempt from bearing a retained water statement?
Answer: No, all raw, single-ingredient product with water retained as a
result of post-evisceration processing used to meet a food safety standard
must be properly labeled with a declaration showing the amount of retained
water prior to shipment.
44. Are inspected kosher meat or poultry products exempt from the
retained water rule?
Answer: No, kosher carcasses and parts are soaked and salted during a
process called kashering. Any water absorbed as a result of the kashering
process does not need to be declared as part of a retained water statement.
However, any water above naturally occurring water that is absorbed during
other prior or subsequent process steps, such as chilling, does need to be
declared. Such products would bear the retained water statement if they
absorbed water prior to kashering or after kashering. Although, kosher
carcasses and parts are labeled as "soaked and salted," they are not
considered multi-ingredient products.
45. Is religious exempt poultry subject to the retained water rule?
Answer: No, labeling of poultry slaughtered under religious exemption
does not bear the mark of inspection. Labeling of poultry that bears an
inspection legend is subject to the retained water rule.
46. Is the retained water statement required on labeling of
uninspected raw single-ingredient product, e.g., non-certified pet food?
Answer: No, the retained water statement is exempt from labeling of
Retail Service Counter
47. When retail service cases display unpackaged raw single-ingredient
meat or poultry products, should the retained water in the product be
Answer: Yes, the retained water statement is required adjacent to the
product, e.g., case card, placard, or shelf tag, which would provide
information about the product. The retained water statement is necessary
because it is mandatory information that indicates an aspect of the product
that is different from similarly processed products that absorb no water
used for food safety purposes.
48. Do packaged meat or poultry products with retained water sold from
a retail service case displaying unpackaged product have to be marked with
the retained water statement?
Answer: Yes, the packaging of the product would bear an accurate label
that includes the retained water declaration.
49. When a retail store buys from multiple suppliers of meat or
poultry with retained water and displays unpackaged product in a retail
service cases, can they simply label the product with the declaration of the
supplier claiming the greatest amount of retained water rather than label
product with multiple declarations?
Answer: Yes, the labeling for meat or poultry with retained water from
several sources bearing different retained water statements would be
achieved by using the highest range statement from the multiple suppliers,
e.g., "less than 6% retained water." A range statement with the highest
value does indicate an assortment of various retained water statements were
present on suppliers? products packaged together, e.g., "chicken legs may
contain up to 5% retained water" or "beef liver not more than 4% absorbed
50. When transportation to retail and display for retail (i.e.
placement on draining racks) cause the product to release purge and thus
decreases the total amount of retained water, how can the retail service
counter relay this information to consumers? Would the service counter have
to do their own analysis based on their practices and label accordingly?
Answer: Labeling with the highest range retained water statement would
be the easiest method available. However, if the service counter can
document the amount of drainage, the product can be labeled with a reduced
value in the retained water statement. Also, if the service counter can
document that all the retained water has drained from the product, a
retained water statement is unnecessary. The method used to determine the
loss is the retailer?s choice but the results should be reproducible and
Product Examples from
Basted turkey injected with up to 3 percent flavor solution is made with
turkey containing 3 percent absorbed water. The ingredient declaration would
not identify any retained water in the turkey that would have possibly been
absorbed during post evisceration processing in the slaughter establishment
because the retained water is not an ingredient. The retained water in the
turkey would not affect the 3 percent flavor solution injected into the
product and declared as part of the product name.
Beef and Turkey Italian Sausage contains starting material that is labeled as
"turkey containing 3 percent retained water." The ingredient declaration
would not identify the retained water in the turkey because the retained
water is not an ingredient. The post evisceration retained water in the
turkey would not affect the 3 percent added water limit for the finished
product that is established by the standard of identity or composition. Water
added to facilitate mixing to dissolve ingredients is an ingredient and is
permitted up to 3 percent in raw sausage.
When beef trimmings that have been sprayed with chilled water so that they
contain 5 percent retained water are used to make a single ingredient raw
ground product, like ground beef or hamburger, the resulting product must be
labeled to declare any retained water above naturally occurring water. Also,
single-ingredient ground poultry produced from poultry containing retained
water would be required to be labeled to declare any retained water above
naturally occurring water. The retained water would not affect compliance
with the standard, i.e., no added water, because retained water is not an
ingredient. If the products were subsequently cooked, the retained water
would have no effect on the finished product or it?s labeling.
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