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Labeling Guidance for Animal Raising Claims: What’s New?

Updated: Jul 9

By Ashley Ellixson

Cows staring into a camera on a field (Shots by Edwin Remsberg).

This article was published in the December 3rd Edition of the Lancaster Farmer.


Have you seen labels on your food or at the grocer that say “raised without the use of hormones” or “raised without antibiotics”? These phrases, as well as the more common terms like “organic” and “grass fed,” refer to the way that the source of animal for a meat or poultry was raised. These labels need to be approved and evaluated before they can be used.


USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) administers the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). These acts authorize FSIS to approve labels, including animal raising claims, for meat and poultry products sold across state lines. To obtain approval of the animal raising claim, the company or grower must submit an application and the FSIS determines if “the animal raising information submitted with the label application” is “truthful and not misleading.”


On October 5, FSIS released an updated version of its labeling guidance document, the most recent update to the animal raising claims labeling guidance since 2002.

The documentation commonly needed to support most animal raising claims is:


  1. A detailed written description explaining the controls used for ensuring that the raising claim is valid from birth to harvest or the period of raising referenced by the claim;

  2. A signed and dated document describing how the animals are raised (e.g., vegetarian fed, raised without antibiotics, grass fed), to support that the specific claim made is truthful and not misleading;

  3. A written description of the product tracing and segregation mechanism from time of slaughter or further processing through packaging and wholesale or retail distribution;

  4. A written description for the identification, control, and segregation of non- conforming animals/product; and

  5. If a third-party certifies a claim, a current copy of the certificate.

The new guidance document also outlines how companies using purchased products with animal raising claims as ingredients may use the purchased product label to support carrying over the same claim to a new label. For a company to include claims from another company label, FSIS requires the following documentation to approve the label:


  1. A copy of the complete incoming purchased label bearing the claims being duplicated OR a copy of the prior label approval and label of sourced product; and

  2. A written description for the identification, control, and segregation of non-conforming animals/product.

The guidance document also describes specific examples of documentation necessary to validate certain animal raising claims associated with (1) animal age, (2) animal welfare and environmental stewardship, (3) breed, (4) diet, (5) living/raising conditions, (6) raised without antibiotics, (7) raised without hormones, (8) source/traceability, and (9) third-party certification.


For more detailed information, see : https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/6fe3cd56-6809-4239-b7a2-bccb82a30588/RaisingClaims.pdf?MOD=AJPERES for the entire new compliance document.


Visit www.fsis.usda.gov for the most recent updates.


#PPIA #ALEI #Foodsafety #FMIA #USDA #foodlabeling #FSIS #FoodSafetyandInspectionService #animalratingclaims #foodlaw

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