USDA hints at scrapping prior label approval

The U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture may be moving toward turning over all labeling responsibilities to industry and ending its prior label approval program.

Such a move would be in line with current trends in federal regulation in which government's role is one of establishing standards and providing oversight rather than the traditional "command and control" style. "We know that we need to change the way we go about reviewing labels," acknowledged Robert Post, director of the Labeling and Compounds Review Division of the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Speaking at a recent conference, Post also said no decision on prior label approval has been made, though he did say that an ongoing pilot study of its generic labeling audit system is expected to lead to further changes. Several labeling experts noted that in the past USDA has implemented decisions through administrative actions before going through all the rulemaking steps. Personnel cuts in the Labeling Review Branch might be a tip-off to the direction USDA intends to go, they said.

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