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Constituent Update - November 10, 2016

Establishments May Voluntarily Use FDA’s Updated Nutrition Facts Label Format on Meat and Poultry Products

FSIS announces that while the Agency is in the process of rulemaking to update the Nutrition Facts label format for meat and poultry products, establishments may voluntarily choose to use the Nutrition Facts label format that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently finalized on May 27, 2016. FDA finalized the “Food Labeling: Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement facts labels,” (81 FR 33742) and “Food Labeling: Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably be Consumed at
One-Eating Occasion; Dual-Column Labeling; Updating, Modifying and Establishing Certain Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed; Serving Size for Breath Mints and Technical Amendments”(81 FR 34000).

As long as the information on the labels is still truthful and not misleading, FSIS will not find noncompliance if companies use the FDA format. When FSIS publishes a final rule to update the Nutrition Facts label format for meat and poultry products, companies would have to comply with that final rule by the effective date and will no longer be able to use the FDA format if it is different from the FSIS format. FSIS has posted an advance copy of the notice at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/286ab693-1dc8-42ac-b295-1868b1b743a9/2016-0030.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

Companies that wish to use FDA’s Nutrition Facts label format will need to submit at least one label sketch in that format to FSIS’ Labeling and Program Delivery Staff. A parent company for a corporation may submit only one label application for a product produced in other establishments that are owned by the corporation. Subsequent similar labels that use FDA’s Nutrition Facts format for other products can be generically approved. Submitting one label and receiving approval helps ensure the rest are applied in compliance with FDA’s regulations and may prevent additional problems in the future.

FSIS is requesting comments on whether there are any issues or problems with allowing companies to voluntarily use FDA’s Nutrition Facts label format on meat and poultry products until FSIS issues a final rule that addresses nutrition labeling requirements. Interested individuals will be able to submit comments for up to 30 days after the notice is posted in the Federal Register. The Federal Register Notice can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/federal-register/federal-register-notices. Comments may be submitted online via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov; by mail including CD-ROMs sent to Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Patriots Plaza 3, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Mailstop 3782, Room 8-163A, Washington, DC 20250-3700; or by hand-or courier-delivery to Patriots Plaza 3,355 E Street SW., Room 8-163A, Washington, DC 20250-3700. All items submitted by mail or electronic mail must include the Agency name and docket number FSIS-2016-0030.

Updated “At Least Equal To” Guideline for State Meat and Poultry Inspection Programs  

FSIS has posted minor updates to the “At Least Equal To” Guideline for State Cooperative Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs that was initially issued in July 2008. This guideline can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/e257c4af-2a5e-4b50-8e5e-3e8da94af949/At_Least_Equal_to_Guidelines.pdf?MOD=AJPERES. It provides MPI programs with the criteria that FSIS uses to determine on an annual basis whether the State programs are administering their State MPI programs in a manner that can be assessed as “At Least Equal To” the requirements of those of FSIS’s Federal inspection program.

The most notable updates in this edition include: a change in the date for the States’ annual self-assessment submission from November 15th to November 1st of each year. A new “Statutory Side-by Side Comparison Table” guidance for States electing not to use FSIS’s Public Health Information System (PHIS)” (previously published as a separate guideline in January 2015); information on laboratory methods and quality assurance programs (previously published as a separate guideline in June 2014) and a list of additional resources and reference material.

While this guideline will assist the State MPI programs in ensuring their programs are assessed as “At Least Equal To”  FSIS’ Federal inspection program during FSIS’ annual review of State programs, it is also designed to assist the States in maintaining their MPI programs year round.

USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline Will Be Available on Thanksgiving Day

While most Americans will be spending their Thanksgiving watching football, making shopping lists for Black Friday or contemplating another slice of pumpkin pie, the dedicated Food Safety Specialists of the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline will be helping busy chefs around the country prevent foodborne illness at their Turkey Day dinners.

The USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline is a group of trained professionals with backgrounds ranging from food, nutrition and public health to microbiology and food science. On Thanksgiving Day, consumers can call the Food Safety Specialists to get help with their Thanksgiving dinner preparations.

Last year, the Hotline received more than 700 calls of which almost 300 were answered by a Food Safety Specialist. Additionally, Ask Karen, a website with a database of thousands of food safety questions and answers, had close to 47,000 inquiries on Thanksgiving Day. Here is a list of the most popular Turkey Day questions and their answers:

How long will turkey last in the freezer? Is it safe to use a turkey I’ve had frozen since last Thanksgiving? Turkeys can be kept in the freezer indefinitely; however, cook within one year for best taste quality.

Can I cook the turkey the day before Thanksgiving? How do I safely store it and then warm it up for dinner? The turkey must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 °F in an oven set no lower than 325 °F. Once cooked, let the turkey sit for 20 minutes then carve the meat off and put it in small, shallow containers for refrigeration. On Thanksgiving Day, place the turkey in a shallow roasting pan with broth or gravy, cover with foil and reheat to 165 °F.

The Hotline is available for calls, emails and live chats Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET. On Thanksgiving Day, the Hotline will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET. Consumers can call 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to speak with a Food Safety Specialist. Information is also available on FoodSafety.gov and AskKaren.gov.

Export Requirement Updates

The Library of Export Requirements has been updated for products for the following countries:

  • Hong Kong
  • Israel
  • Mexico

Complete information can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/international-affairs/exporting-products.

Policy Updates

FSIS notices and directives on public health and regulatory issues are available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations. The following policy updates were recently issued:

  • Notice 85-16 - Employee Line of Sight and the Agency’s Strategic and Annual Plans
  • Directive 5720.3 - Methodology for Performing Scheduled and Targeted Reviews of State Meat and Poultry Inspection Programs Revision 2
  • Docket No. FSIS-2016-0030 - Nutrition Facts Label Compliance (Advance Copy)

Food Recalls and Alerts

For information regarding recalls, please contact the Congressional and Public Affairs Staff at (202) 720-9113. You can also receive e-mail notifications when public health alerts and recalls are issued by registering at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/subscribe.

Follow Us On Twitter

Follow FSIS on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/USDAFoodSafety to find food safety information for at-risk populations, along with tips and resources to keep consumers and other interested groups informed of the latest Agency news and events.

Sign Up for Siluriformes Fish Inspection Email Updates

Want the latest news and information about Siluriformes fish inspection? FSIS’ email subscription service is an easy way to keep up with Agency news. You can receive e-mail notifications when new Siluriformes fish inspection information is posted. You can add or delete your subscription updates at any time and you have the option to password protect your account. For more information, visit http://www.fsis.usda.gov/subscribe.