The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a revised compliance guideline for substantiating animal raising claims on labels for meat and poultry products. This updated guideline expands and, in some cases, modifies FSIS’s written policies on animal raising claims made on meat and poultry products. The guideline addresses both how claims should be phrased (including necessary qualifiers or explanatory text) and what type of information the establishment must include with the label application. Although FSIS policy has remained generally consistent at a high level from the previous guideline, FSIS has indicated that it expects certain claims to include additional or updated explanatory statements. It will be important for companies making animal raising claims to review their current labels and claims to evaluate whether changes will be required and to determine an appropriate process for doing so. Companies should revisit point-of-sale claims (regulated by FSIS but not subject to preapproval) and advertising (not regulated by FSIS but assessed by the Federal Trade Commission’s deceptive advertising standard) in light of the revised compliance guidelines.

Animal raising claims, which include statements about antibiotic use, specialty feeds or diets, caging and handling, animal welfare claims, and other husbandry issues, are becoming increasingly popular on labels and point-of-sale retail labeling. Animal raising claims are considered “special statements or claims” that trigger prior review and approval by FSIS. The updated compliance guideline expands on the September 2016 version of the guideline. The revisions will be of interest to meat and poultry processors, retailers, and restaurants making these types of claims. Compliance guidelines are technically nonbinding documents, but they explain FSIS’s current thinking and effectively represent the policies applied when the Agency reviews and approves labels bearing these claims. FSIS is accepting comments until February 25, 2020.

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Photo of Steve Steinborn Steve Steinborn

Partner, Washington, D.C.

Steven Steinborn literally wrote the book on food labeling as a principal author of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) labeling guide. On top of that, he offers clients 28 years of experience in guiding informed business decisions, taking into…

Partner, Washington, D.C.

Steven Steinborn literally wrote the book on food labeling as a principal author of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) labeling guide. On top of that, he offers clients 28 years of experience in guiding informed business decisions, taking into account food laws and other regulations, as well as the environment in which companies operate. Representing food processors, restaurant chains, foodservice operators, ingredient suppliers, and trade associations, Steven focuses on advertising, labeling, and food safety. He is also a strong advocate in enforcement matters brought by the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the USDA, and state regulators as well.

From small start-ups to established international brands, Steven understands the dynamics of the food industry. He brings this knowledge to bear on cutting-edge issues ranging from claim substantiation to potential food safety situations. He is also regularly consulted in bringing and defending competitor challenges, and represents companies before the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division. Keenly aware of the current litigation climate, Steven works closely with marketers in exploring all avenues to reach important business objectives.

Beyond the food industry, Steven routinely advises consumer product companies on reporting and potential recall situations arising under the jurisdiction of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. His practice covers a diverse range of industries, including children’s toys, household appliances, infant products, gas grills, furnaces, consumer electronics, computers, printers, handheld devices, and child-resistant packaging.

Steven is a frequent speaker on innovation and legal compliance and has authored numerous articles on a range of subjects, from the latest developments in the regulation of genetically engineered foods to important developments that impact food advertising.

Photo of Brian Eyink Brian Eyink

Counsel, Washington, D.C.

Drawing on experience throughout the supply chain — from animal production to food processing to distribution and retail sale — Brian Eyink brings vast and cross-cutting industry knowledge to help clients find practical solutions to regulatory problems. Brian is particularly…

Counsel, Washington, D.C.

Drawing on experience throughout the supply chain — from animal production to food processing to distribution and retail sale — Brian Eyink brings vast and cross-cutting industry knowledge to help clients find practical solutions to regulatory problems. Brian is particularly sensitive to risk management issues as companies adapt to a regulatory and political environment increasingly focused on inspections, enforcement, and investigations.

Brian helps food and agriculture companies navigate increasingly complex and high-stakes federal and state regulatory issues. He draws on deep experience with the USDA, FDA, and FTC, as well as state, local, and self-regulatory bodies, litigation, and acquisitions to solve clients’ regulatory and business problems. Brian advises clients on the full scope of regulatory issues facing the food and agriculture sectors, ranging from USDA and FDA enforcement actions and federal investigations to regulatory compliance, import and export issues, litigation support, comment preparation, legislative drafting, policy development, trade association governance, advertising disputes, and labeling issues.

Brian also represents food and agriculture trade associations, advising on issues including general counseling and governance, influencing policy and public perspective, and implementation of industry initiatives.

Before joining Hogan Lovells, Brian served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Gerald Bard Tjoflat of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. While in law school, he served as an executive editor of the Duke Law Journal.

Photo of Mary Lancaster Mary Lancaster

Associate, Washington, D.C.

Mary Lancaster provides practical guidance on complex regulatory issues to help food and beverage companies in all segments of the industry achieve their business goals.

Mary advises clients on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture…

Associate, Washington, D.C.

Mary Lancaster provides practical guidance on complex regulatory issues to help food and beverage companies in all segments of the industry achieve their business goals.

Mary advises clients on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) compliance with current good manufacturing practice (cGMP), advertising and labeling compliance, and food safety issues that arise throughout the entire food supply chain. She also advises on enforcement actions and drafts comments on proposed regulations and agency guidance. Mary also has experience with matters in front of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Prior to law school, Mary was a legal assistant at a Washington, D.C. law firm, where she assisted lawyers in white-collar investigations, pharmaceutical class action litigations, and federal habeas petitions for death row inmates.