Small Plant News: Volume 6, Number 11
- Labels and Co-packing
- Food Defense Mini-Exercise Kit
- New Retail Dollar Limitations Go Into Effect
- Commonly Asked Questions and Answers
By Beth A. McKew, DVM
Many small and very small federally inspected plants partner with local producers to slaughter and process livestock or poultry, which the producers will then sell under their own name. This arrangement, known as “co-packing,” has become more and more common as producers seek affordable ways to process and distribute their product.
“Co-packing” provides producers with a way to market and sell their meat without incurring the overhead costs associated with operating a federally inspected facility. Also, by providing this service to local producers, Federal plants widen their customer base and increase their income.
Producers may decide for various reasons to switch from one Federal plant to another, bringing their approved label with them to the new plant. Quite often, the labels involved in the transition bear animal production claims such as “grass-fed,” “farm-raised,” or “certified organic.” Both the producer and the Federal plant should be aware that when a label is approved by FSIS’ Labeling and Program Delivery Staff (LPDS), as required for any label that bears a special claim, the label is only approved for use at the federally inspected plant specifically identified on the original label application form. Although the producer may have made arrangements to print the label, and may have even submitted the label application for approval to LPDS directly, the label approval does not belong to the producer of the animals. When a producer changes plants he or she may resubmit the label to LPDS for prior approval. However if the new plant has a complete copy of the original sketch label approval on file, including any and all
associated supporting documentation necessary to support any special statements or claims on the original label, then the new plant may change the establishment number of the label to their own number. In this case the information contained within the labeling application would be expected to remain the same (e.g. HACCP category, product formulation, and processing procedures). Note that this generic change of an establishment number would not apply to certain claims, such as organic claims, since the supporting documentation for organic claims is specific to the establishment and therefore would not support the claim of organic made by the new establishment.
Even when the plant stipulates that producers design and print their own label, ultimately it is the Federal plant that is responsible for ensuring that any label which bears their plant number is truthful and not misleading.
If the label is eligible for generic approval, then the federally inspected plant must ensure that all of the required features are present on the label and that a copy of the generic approval is maintained on file at the plant. If the label is required to be submitted to LPDS for approval because it is not eligible for generic approval, then the plant is responsible for maintaining a copy of the label approval, as approved by LPDS, in its file for review by FSIS personnel. Additional guidance on plant responsibilities for labeling records can be accessed at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/labeling.
For more information or questions on this or any other labeling topics, please contact the LPDS at 301-504-0878, or, if you prefer, by e-mail at http://askfsis.custhelp.com .
FSIS is developing a mini-exercise kit in an effort to help you ensure that your food defense plan is functional. The kit will also help you with the development and maintenance of written recall procedures as required under the FSIS May 8, 2012, final rule “Requirements for Official Establishments to Notify FSIS of Adulterated or Misbranded Product, Prepare and Maintain Written Recall Procedures, and Document Certain Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points System Plan Reassessments.”
The kit will be scenario-based and is designed to be completed in only 45 to 60 minutes. Completing the exercises will reinforce that:
- Having a food defense plan can help you improve your hiring practices and monitoring for suspicious behavior;
- Having written recall procedures can help you make decisions quickly about which products to recall;
- Preparing key contact information and testing it in advance can help you in any food defense or recall incident; and,
- Testing your written recall procedures can provide confidence that you can efficiently and effectively recover your product if the need arises.
The kit-in-a-box will consist of a read-first document; a list of background information and a list of objectives; a facilitator’s guide; four scenarios (PowerPoint slides) focusing on four FSIS regulated products; a list of lessons learned; a resource guide; and appendixes containing an acronym guide, FSIS notices, and sample plans.
The kit will be available by fall 2013, and it will be announced on the FSIS Web site.
The FSIS regulations found in Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations explain the conditions under which requirements for inspection do not apply to retail operations involved in the preparation of meat and meat food as well as processing of poultry and poultry products.
Under these regulations, parts 303.1(d) and 381.10(d) (9 CFR 303.1(d) and 381.10(d)), sales to hotels, restaurants, and similar institutions (HRI) disqualify a store for exemption if the product sales exceed either of two maximum limits:
- 25 percent of the dollar value of total product sales, or
- The calendar year dollar limitation set by the Administrator.
The dollar limitation is adjusted automatically during the first quarter of the year if the Consumer Price Index, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that the price of the same volume of product for the previous year changed by $500 in either direction. FSIS then publishes a notice of the adjusted dollar limitations in the Federal Register.
The new dollar limitations for calendar year 2013 went into effect on April 23, 2013. The new limitations are:
- Meat and meat food products – $69,600;
- Poultry products – $54,500.
These new dollar limitations are available in a Federal Register Notice, Docket No. FSIS–2013–0013, “Retail Exemptions Adjusted Dollar Limitations.” This notice can be accessed from the FSIS Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/3d1b427e-7371-46ec-bfc1-70e215590fc3/2013-0013.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.
For more information on exemptions, you may contact the Small Plant Help Desk at InfoSource@fsis.usda.gov. You may also want to review the article titled “Knowing the Exemptions Regarding Inspection” in the Volume 5, Number 6 issue of the Small Plant News, which can be found online at www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/newsroom/meetings/newsletters/small-plant-news/ct_index58.
Q. Why do notices and directives now include instructions related to submitting questions through askFSIS?
A. Instructions are now being provided to assist users if they have questions about the issuance. This, in turn, ensures:
- The question is routed to the appropriate location, and
- The user receives a timely response.
Q. I am not able to login to askFSIS. I am getting an error message. Whom do I contact for assistance?
A. Please contact the Policy Development Service (PDS) at 1-800-233-3935. Please explain to the receptionist that you are having difficulty logging into your askFSIS account. Your call will be directed to a staff officer for assistance.
Q. Why did I receive a different answer when I submitted a question similar to the inspector’s or another establishment’s?
A. When a customer submits a question using askFSIS, the question is answered based on the information provided (e.g., the specific conditions that lead to the issue). Because no two situations are exactly alike, two questions that appear to be similar to the customer may not be to the subject matter experts, and those differences may affect the response.
The askFSIS agency staff works closely with customers to ensure that they understand the initial information provided. The askFSIS Staff Officer assigned to answer the question may need to seek additional information by asking the constituent clarifying questions. It is essential that constituents include as much detail and clarity as possible in their submittals, as it relates to their specific situations. The details will assist askFSIS agency staff in gaining a clear understanding of the situation. Without sufficient details, two questions that appear to be the same to the constituent could result in different responses.
All askFSIS customers are encouraged to submit questions. It is helpful if both inspection program personnel and the establishment plan to submit separate questions that they correlate on the specific issue, as well as on the question that they both will submit. The askFSIS Staff strive to provide the most accurate policy response.
Constituents are welcome and encouraged to call the askFSIS Staff Officer at 1-800-233-3935 if they have questions about the answer received.
Reference: FSIS Directive 5620.1 Using askFSIS
Small Plant News
Editor in Chief: Daniel P. Puzo
Editor: Keith Payne
Managing Editor: Jane Johnson, DVM
Manager: Sally Fernandez
Layout/Design: Gordon E. Wilson, Duane Robinson
Contributing Writer: Jeff Tarrant, Commander, U.S. Public Health Service
Office of Outreach, Employee Education and Training: Michael G. Watts, Assistant Administrator
Small Plant News, USDA/FSIS, Patriots Plaza III, Rm. 9-267A, Mailstop 3778,
1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250. (800) 336-3747; E-mail: SmallPlantNews@fsis.usda.gov
FSIS Small Plant Help Desk