USDA's FSIS offers guidance on labeling non-GMO feed products

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Animal producers have a new guidance to label animal products from production systems not using GMO feed or feed ingredients.

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has released guidance documents for producers wanting to specify that their animals were not given feed containing genetically modified (GMO) ingredients.

The USDA’s new guidance document , Voluntary Labeling Statements that Bioengineered or Genetically Modified Ingredients or Animal Feed were not used in Meat, Poultry, or Egg Products, was released on Friday, FSIS told us.

It was intended to offer guidance to companies seeking to make claims on their labels regarding the fact that bioengineered or GM ingredients were not included in the production of the meat, poultry or egg product, the agency said.

“This guidance also provides information on how companies can make label or labeling claims that a product was produced from livestock or poultry that were not fed bioengineered or GM feed,” the agency said. “For purposes of this guidance document, these claims will be referred to as ‘negative claims.’”

Previously, the agency has allowed negative claims through its approval process, it said.

Guidance details

Although the agency has established the guidance for companies, it will not be doing the inspections needed for approval itself, said FSIS.

“Because FSIS does not have the ability to independently verify negative claims for ingredients or feed, FSIS has required establishments that make these claims to comply with standards established by a third-party certifying organization,” it said. “FSIS currently requires that the third-party certifying organization’s standards be publicly available on a web site and the label or labeling disclose the web site address of the third-party certifying organization.”

Third party groups include organic certifying organizations approved by the USDA’s Agricultural Marking Service National Organic Program, it said. And, products that qualify as organic will not need a separate FSIS approval.

The company also has to show that it can prove or support its claims of earning a third-party certification, the agency said.

The new guidance marks a change for the agency, it said. Previously, it did not allow terms including “genetically modified organism” or “GMO” in negative claims unless the term was a part of the name of the third party certifying group.

“However, recent legislation was enacted requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to develop and implement a mandatory national bioengineered food disclosure standard within 2 years,” the agency said. “This legislation also addresses negative claims.”

The agency has revised its former position based on the new law and has decided to allow the use of such terms in negative claims – as long as the label or labeling is “truthful and not misleading,” it said. It will follow the definition of bioengineering set in that legislation.

“Effective immediately,  FSIS will begin approving negative claims for meat, poultry and egg products that do not contain bioengineered ingredients or that are derived from livestock that do not consume bioengineered feed and that contain the terms ‘genetically modified organism’ or ‘GMO’,” it said. synonymous terms like genetically engineered also will be allowed, in keeping with past practice.

“With respect to acceptable claim terminology for multi-ingredient products, examples of such claims FSIS will accept are: ‘Contains No GMO ingredients,’ ‘No genetically modified ingredients,’ ‘Ingredients used are not bioengineered,’ or ‘No genetically engineered ingredients through the use of modern biotechnology,’” the agency said.

Negative claims labels are not considered generically approved, unless the company already has an established label, the agency said. Instead labels must be submitted to the agency for approval prior to use.

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