New Verification for Organic Poultry Products

US - Organic meat and poultry producers can now use a streamlined process to get approval for labels verifying that their products do not include genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.
calendar icon 7 November 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released new procedures for including a “non-genetically engineered” statement on the label of organic meat and poultry products. This is consistent with organic regulations, which have always prohibited the use of GE in all organic products. Now, with the new process, it will be easier for certified organic entities to add these claims to existing FSIS-approved products, speeding up the label review process.

The revised process is part of the ongoing implementation of Secretary Tom Vilsack’s May 2013 USDA Departmental Guidance on Organic Agriculture, Marketing and Industry which calls for USDA to integrate organic agriculture into programs and services across the department. My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which includes the National Organic Program, worked closely with FSIS to develop the new labeling option. It’s a great example of how we are actively implementing the Secretary’s guidance to reduce duplication and better meet the needs of organic businesses.

FSIS and AMS have long shared responsibility for verifying accurate labeling of certified organic meat and poultry products.

The new procedure released by the FSIS allows certified organic meat and poultry producers to obtain approval of non-GE label claims based on their organic certification. USDA organic regulations already require certified operations to obtain their certifier’s approval of labels that use the term “organic” or display the USDA organic seal. Now, a certified organic meat or poultry processor can get non-GE meat label claims approved by sending a letter with a reference to a prior organic label approval to FSIS. For information on the complete process, see FSIS Procedures for Including “Non-Genetically Engineered” Statement.

Non-GE label claims must be carefully worded so they do not confuse or mislead consumers. They may make a specific claim regarding the process that was accomplished without the use of GE materials, but they must also add a clear statement that the USDA organic regulations prohibit the use of genetic engineering in the production of organic products.

For example, the FSIS may allow an expedited label claim that states “Beef used in this product is fed a diet that contains non-genetically engineered ingredients. The USDA organic regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered feed ingredients.”

Proper label use will be verified during normal FSIS surveillance inspections and during routine NOP certification inspections – which occur on an annual basis for organic operations.

The expedited process will not only save time and expense for organic producers, it will enable them to more easily communicate with consumers that their products maintain organic integrity and are free of GE ingredients.

Charlotte Rowney

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