The USDA’S Food Safety and Inspection Service is giving a positive response to a citizen’s petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Consumer Reports.
The two consumer groups by petition asked FSIS in August 2019 “to prohibit the statements, “No Nitrate or Nitrite Added” and “Uncured,” in the labeling of products that have been processed using any source of nitrate or nitrite, including non-synthetic sources, such as celery powder.
“Both synthetic and non-synthetic nitrates and nitrites may cause cancer, and product testing results by Consumer Reports show that processed meats made with celery powder and other non-synthetic sources of nitrates and nitrites can contain residues of these substances, just as do meats that use synthetic sources,” CSPI and Consumer Reports said in their submittal letter.
Survey data from Consumer Reports also showed that consumers are confused by the “No Nitrate or Nitrite Added ” statements, which are currently accompanied by a fine-print disclaimer on product labels identifying the non-synthetic source of nitrates or nitrites e.g. except those naturally occurring in celery powder.”
“After careful consideration of your petition and the 17 public comments submitted to regulations.gov in response to your petition, we have decided to partially grant your request,” FSIS said in its response posted Tuesday on the agency’s website.
“FSIS intends to conduct a rulemaking to propose to prohibit the statements, “No Nitrate or Nitrite Added” and “Uncured,” on products that have been processed using any source of nitrates or nitrites,” it continued. “FSIS also intends to approve non-synthetic sources of nitrates or nitrites as curing agents. However, rather than requiring disclosure statements about the use of nitrate or nitrites on labels of meat and poultry products, as requested in the petition, FSIS intends to propose to amend and clarify its meat and poultry labeling regulations to establish new definitions for “Cured” and “Uncured.” The basis for these proposed changes would be discussed in detail in the proposed rule, which is listed in the Fall 2020 Semiannual Regulatory Agenda,1 with a tentative publication date of May 2021.”
Specifically, the CSPI/Consumer Reports petition requested that FSIS:
- Amend 9 CFR 317.17 and 9 CFR 319.2 to:
- Prohibit the statements, “No Nitrate or Nitrite Added” and “Uncured,” on
- products that have been processed using any source of nitrates or nitrites as a coloring, flavoring, curing agent, antimicrobial, or for similar uses, reserving such claims only for meats that were not processed using nitrates or nitrites;
- Require a disclosure – “Nitrates or nitrites added” – on all products prepared with any sources of nitrates or nitrites as a coloring, flavoring, curing agent, antimicrobial, or for similar uses, in lettering of easily readable style and at least one-half the size and prominence of the product name; and
- Require that ingredients that are used as a source of nitrates or nitrites as a coloring, flavoring, curing agent, antimicrobial or for similar uses be declared as such on the ingredients list, as follows: “[Ingredient](Source of nitrate or nitrite for [use]).” (For example: “Celery powder (Source of nitrates or nitrites for curing).”
- Approve non-synthetic sources of nitrates or nitrites, such as celery powder, as curing agents under the process used to list ingredients in FSIS Directive 7120.1, and take steps to minimize levels of residual nitrites, nitrates, and nitrosamines in these products by setting maximum concentrations and requirements for the use of ascorbate or other cure accelerators when nitrates or nitrites are used.
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