Any new meat and poultry product labeling regulations that are issued next year by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will have a uniform compliance date of Jan. 1, 2020.

FSIS has periodically set a uniform compliance date at some point in the future for its food labeling requirements. Previously on Dec. 14, 2004, the uniform compliance date for meat and poultry product labeling changes made during 2005 was set for Jan. 1, 2008. Compliance dates since then have been rolled forward on five different occasions.

manwithmeat_406x250The new final rule, published Monday in the Federal Register, makes Jan. 1, 2020, as the uniform compliance date for new meat and poultry product labeling regulations that are issued between Jan. 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2018.

The agency says it is consistent with previous rules and maintains consistent compliance dates for both FSIS and its counterpart, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Further, it is not seen as a significant regulatory action under Executive Orders requiring assessments of costs and benefits and potentially the consideration of alterntives.

“Two year increments enchance the industry’s ability to make orderly adjustments to new labeling requirements without unduly exposing consumers to outdated labels,” FSIS says in the Federal Register. With this approach, the meat and poultry industry is able to plan for use of label inventories and to develop new labeling materials that meet the requirements of all labeling regulations made within the two year period, thereby minimizing the economic impact of labeling changes.

“This compliance approach also serves consumer’s interests because the cost of multiple short-term label revision that would otherwise occur would likely to be passed on to consumers’s in the form of higher prices.”

The agency does encourage meat and poultry companies to comply with new labeling regulations as soon as it is feasible. When companies initiate voluntary label changes, it encourages them to incorporate the latest requirements published as final regulations.

The 2020 compliance date will replace the current deadline, which is Jan. 1, 2018. The most recent labeling changes issued by FSIS came out only a few days ago on Dec. 14, 2016. Those involved a “Best if Used By” date label, a change made in hopes of reducing food waste.

Use of such a label won’t be required, but FSIS is suggesting its use based on research showing the phrase is more easily understood by consumers.

Comments on the new rule will be accepted at Regulations.Gov until the deadline of Jan. 18, 2017.

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