FSIS considers labeling reviews without industry representation

A food labeling trade group has expressed concern that industry representatives may be barred in the future from face-to-face meetings with federal regulators that review new labels for meat and poultry products.

Such face-to-face meetings were suspended over the Christmas and New Year's holidays by the Labeling and Compounds Review Div. (LCRD) of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). LCRD cited staffing shortages as the reason. Further, LCRD has said it believes the temporary change in policy could be permanently implemented without first seeking the comments of industry. The Assn. of Food Labeling Consultants (AFLC) told LCRD it favors the current system of face-to-face meetings. It permits industry representatives to correct labeling errors immediately, remain in possession of confidential formulations and processing procedures, and receive immediate answers and guidance to labeling questions. The trade group says that further reductions in LCRD staff may increase the risk that industry will be denied such face-to-face meetings in the future. Under the new system, any questions raised by the reviewer or industry representative could not be answered immediately and could take several days, or longer, to resolve, potentially delaying shipments or otherwise causing companies to incur expenses. AFLC urges the rest of the food industry to voice its concern to FSIS.

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