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USDA Extends Deadlines to Comment on Four Regulatory Proposals

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended the deadlines for interested parties to comment on the following regulatory proposals.

Country of Origin Labelling Requirements for Venison
The Agricultural Marketing Service is extending from 14 March to 13 April the deadline for comments on a proposal to add muscle cuts of venison and ground venison to the list of commodities subject to mandatory country of origin labelling requirements. AMS states that under this rule retailers and suppliers would be required to keep records and provide their customers notification of the country of origin of muscle cuts and ground venison they sell. Individuals that supply venison, whether directly to retailers or indirectly through other participants in the marketing chain, would be required to establish and maintain country of origin information for venison and supply this information to retailers. As a result, producers, handlers, manufacturers, wholesalers, importers and retailers of venison would be affected.

Import Requirements for Plant Pests and Biocontrol Agents
APHIS has extended from 20 March to 19 April the period for public comments on a proposed rule that would ease restrictions on the importation of certain types of plant pests, establish criteria for the movement and environmental release of biological control organisms, and revise the regulations regarding the movement of soil.

With respect to the regulation of plant pests, the proposed rule would (i) clarify the risk-based criteria APHIS uses to determine if an organism is a plant pest and to evaluate and issue permits, (ii) revise the definition of a plant pest to include organisms of unknown risk if those organisms are similar to known plant pests, (iii) allow the use of general web-based permits for the importation and interstate movement into the continental United States of certain low-risk pests, and (iv) put in place a notice-based process to establish and maintain a list of pests exempted from standard permit requirements.

With respect to the regulation of biological control organisms, the proposed rule would (i) establish criteria regarding the movement and release of certain biological control agents in the continental United States and (ii) establish exemptions for certain biological control organisms similar to what is being proposed for widely prevalent, low-risk plant pests. The new rule would also more appropriately reflect the risk from soil that accompanies a plant pest by including soil as an associated article, updating the definition of soil and clarifying what is not considered soil.

Import Requirements for Genetically Engineered Organisms
APHIS has extended from 19 May to 21 June the public comment period on a proposal to update its regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of certain genetically engineered organisms in response to advances in genetic engineering and understanding of the plant pest and noxious weed risk posed by such organisms.

Under the proposed rule, which APHIS states would be the first comprehensive revision of these regulations since they were established in 1987, APHIS would first assess GE organisms to determine if they pose plant pest or noxious weed risks. If they do not, APHIS would not require a permit for the importation, interstate movement and environmental release (outdoor use) of the GE organism. On the other hand, if APHIS determines that controls on imports, interstate movements or environmental releases (regulated controlled outdoor use such as in field trials) are needed it will work with the requestor to establish appropriate permit conditions to manage identified risks.

Updated Nutrition Labelling Requirements for Meat and Poultry Products
FSIS has extended from 20 March to 19 April the deadline for public comments on a proposal to amend the nutrition labelling requirements for meat and poultry products to better reflect the most recent scientific research and dietary recommendations and to improve the presentation of nutrition information to assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices. Specifically, this rule would do the following.

  • update the list of nutrients required or permitted to be declared
  • provide updated daily reference values and reference daily intake values based on current dietary recommendations from consensus reports (e.g., remove the requirement to declare calories from fat, require the declaration of added sugars, and permit the voluntary declaration of vitamins A and C)
  • amend the labelling requirements for foods represented or purported to be specifically for children under the age of four years, pregnant women and lactating women and establish nutrient reference values specifically for these population subgroups
  • revise the format and appearance of the “Nutrition Facts” label (e.g., increasing the type size for “calories,” “servings per container” and the serving size declaration and bolding the number of calories and the serving size declaration)
  • amend the definition of a single-serving container
  • require dual-column labelling for certain containers
  • update and modify several reference amounts customarily consumed
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