July 30, 2010

Natural Chicken Guidelines Coming Under Fire

Federal guidelines regarding the labeling of "natural" chicken could change as the result of an ongoing dispute over whether or not poultry injected with salt, water, or other such ingredients should carry the label, according to Associated Press (AP) reports on Friday.

Under current U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, chicken may be labeled as "natural" as long as it does not contain artificial flavors or preservatives.

However, notes AP writer Juliana Barbassa, "the agency agreed to take another look at its policy after some producers, politicians and health advocates noted that about one-third of chicken sold in the U.S. was injected with additives that could represent up to 15 percent of the meat's weight, doubling or tripling its sodium content."

Critics argue that such additives might mislead consumers, or harm those who need to limit their daily sodium intake, says Barbassa. One of the more outspoken advocates for change includes Perdue chicken, who is currently the third largest poultry producer in the U.S.

"Our labels say natural or all natural only if there is nothing added," company spokesman Luis Luna told Barbassa on Friday. "Under no circumstances is it acceptable to label poultry that has been enhanced with water or broth or solutions as natural, or all natural."

Perdue has joined forces with the Truthful Labeling Coalition (TLC), an advocacy group that, according to their website, is pushing the USDA to make sure that only 100-percent natural chicken with zero additives will be allowed to carry the "Natural" label. Furthermore, TLC wants chicken producers to be forced to identify all added ingredients in bold typeface, while also lobbying for stricter enforcement of the USDA's "Raised Without Antibiotics" label.

"We have to educate people to read labels and make better choices," Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco that has extensively studied salt intake and health care issues, told Barbassa. "When there are foods that people consider to be fresh and without additives, and they also have salt added, you feel you are almost fighting a losing battle."


On the Net: