March 2, 2012
USDA Issues New Rules On Meat Packaging
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced some big changes to raw meat and poultry labeling at grocery stores on Thursday.
The USDA said that 40 of the most popular whole, raw cuts of meat and poultry will have nutritional information either on the package labels or on display to consumers at the store.
"Providing nutrition information on meat and poultry products in the store gives shoppers a clearer sense of the options available, allowing them to purchase items that are most appropriate for their families' needs," Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said in a press release.
The new nutrition facts panels will list how many calories and grams of total fat and saturated fat a product contains.
The USDA said a ground or chopped product that includes on its label a lean percentage statement and is not considered "low in fat" will list its fat percentage.
"These new labels mark a significant step in the agency's efforts to help consumers make more informed food purchase decisions," Hagen said.
Consumers who have questions about the new labels or other food safety issues can call the Food Safety and Inspection Service's virtual representative "Ask Karen" 24-hours-a-day.
"We don't want to tell people what to decide," Hagen told WebMD. "It is a matter of going into the store and thinking, 'How many calories will I consume today?' 'What is my target for fat grams?' 'How does this purchase fit into my own and my family's diet?'"
"So now you can actually look and say, 'OK, if I choose the ground turkey over the ground beef, or the porterhouse steak instead of going with a pork chop or some lean chicken breast, what is that going to mean to me in terms of the choices I make today and the choices I make tomorrow?'"
She told WebMD that the new rule is expected to add less than a half penny per pound to the cost of meat and poultry products.
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