Per the requirements of Chapter 9 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 317 and Section 381 subpart N, all meat and poultry products must have labels with up to 8 required features. Only the first 3 label features listed below will be required on all products. All products with more than 1 ingredient must have an ingredients statement. Almost all products will require a net weight. Only shelf-stable products do not require a handling statement.
- Product Name
- Inspection Legend with Establishment Number (explained below)
- Plant Address (or company address)
- Ingredients Statement
- Net Weight
- Handling Statement (i.e. “keep refrigerated”)
- Nutritional Facts
- Safe Handling Instructions
The last feature, safe handling instructions, is distinct from the “handling statement” feature which has to do with how to store a meat or poultry product that has been processed. “Safe handling instructions” are used for raw products only. A label will only have safe handling instructions (raw product) or a handling statement (processed product) NOT both. Below is a sample of what safe handling instructions could look like.
Here’s an example of what a handling statement for a Ready to Eat product could look like:
Mark of Inspection and Establishment Number
Once an application for inspection has been filed, an official establishment number will be reserved. This number must be used within a “mark of inspection” (sometime also called an “inspection legend”) on all labels to show that products have been inspected and passed by a food safety inspection authority (federal or state). Below are examples of USDA marks of inspection. Each state inspection agency will have its own unique mark(s) of inspection.
All carcasses must be ink-branded with the mark of inspection. All packaged meat products must have the mark of inspection printed on the label of the package. All labeling material must be approved and on-hand before inspection will be granted. Each time you introduce a new product you will have to apply for a new label. All labels must be pre-approved for use by your inspection agency before they can be used on any product (unless you are selling the product under retail exemption).
- FSIS Form 7234.1 Application for Label Approval and instructions States offering state inspection will have their own forms.
- Step By Step Instructions For Filling Out Federal And State Special Claims Applications : This document by North Carolina State University Extension gives a very clear explanation and detailed instructions for filling out a Form 7234, as well as an example State label application from North Carolina.
- FSIS has produced a comprehensive guide to labeling and labeling claims (i.e. “low fat”) for meat and poultry products.