1) What’s your reaction to the recent petition submitted by Consumer Reports and the Center for Science in the Public Interest calling on your agency to stop requiring the terms “Uncured” and “No Nitrate or Nitrite Added” on labels for meat processed with nitrates or nitrites from non-synthetic sources, such as celery powder.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service is responsible for ensuring that domestic and imported meat, poultry and egg products are safe, wholesome and accurately labeled. FSIS is considering the petition submitted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Consumer Reports on Aug. 29, 2019 for policy change and will respond once the petition process is complete.

2) Why do you currently require those labels?

Curing agents and cure accelerators are defined in the regulations and are limited to synthetic sources (See 9 CFR 424.21(c) and FSIS Directive 7120.1).  

Products that are required to contain curing agents and cure accelerators as part of current “standard of identity” regulations in 9 CFR part 319 or 9 CFR 317.17(b) but instead are formulated with natural sources of nitrite and ascorbate must be labeled as "uncured" under 9 CFR 319.2.  Currently, the label of these products must also contain the statement "no nitrates or nitrites added" per 9 CFR 317.17. A qualifying statement reading, "except for those naturally occurring in [name of natural source of nitrite such as celery powder]" is needed so that the label makes clear to consumers that the product contains naturally occurring nitrites or nitrates.

Background Information

The process for considering submitted petitions is dictated by 9 CFR 392.5 (c), which states that once a petition is submitted, it is then filed by the FSIS Docket Clerk, stamped with a date of filing and then assigned a petition number. Once the petition has been filed, FSIS will notify the petitioner in writing and provide the petitioner with the petition’s assigned number, as well as an agency contact. The petition is then made available for public inspection in the FSIS docket room and posted on the FSIS web site. FSIS will then consider all petition comments that are submitted before a final review and decision is sent to the petitioner.

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