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For Immediate
May 26, 1999

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  Grocery Chains Criticized for Not Providing Nutrition Information on Meat
Several Chains Applauded

WASHINGTON - In a sampling of stores from the 20 largest grocery chains in the U.S., the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) found that six chains provide no “Nutrition Facts” labels on their store-brand ground beef. Chains that did not provide ground beef labeling were Stop & Shop, Costco, Great Atlantic & Pacific (A&P, Kohl’s, Super Fresh), Giant, Inc., Sam’s Club, and Meijer.

   CSPI lauded several chains including Safeway, Albertson’s, Lucky, Jewel, and Winn-Dixie, for providing “Nutrition Facts” labels on all of their ground beef.

   “Red meat is one of the biggest sources of artery-clogging saturated fat for Americans,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI. “Consumers need labels that clearly state how much fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and other nutrients meat contains.”

  In a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Dan Glickman, CSPI urged USDA to require mandatory “Nutrition Facts” labels for all ground beef and cited the agency’s failure to protect the public from misleading claims regarding “Lean” and “% Lean”:

  • “Lean” claims - CSPI asked USDA to close a five-year-old loophole that exempts ground beef from the same rules for “lean” claims that apply to other foods. In the samples of ground beef purchased at 41 supermarkets, CSPI found that roughly half of the packages of “lean” ground beef failed to meet the 10%-fat limit that applies to all other “lean” meat products. For instance, at Albertsons’ stores (in Texas, Florida, and Washington) ground beef with 20% fat was labeled “lean.” 

  • “80% Lean” claims - Roughly half of the packages in CSPI’s survey had labels like “80% lean,” “85% lean,” etc. Those claims are illegal on foods that are not low in fat, but USDA has failed to apply that rule to ground beef.
   “For five years, USDA’s inaction has allowed labels to mislead millions of Americans who have been trying to eat ‘lean meat’,” said Bonnie Liebman, CSPI’s director of nutrition.

   In addition, CSPI charged that USDA has failed to enforce regulations that require any raw meat with more than one ingredient to bear a “Nutrition Facts” label and an ingredient list. “Supermarkets often adjust the fat content of ground beef by adding fat,” explained Jacobson. “That manipulation should trigger mandatory nutrition labeling and a label stating: ‘Ingredients: ground beef, beef fat.’”

   Every major health authority, including the USDA; the Surgeon General; the National Cancer Institute; the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; the American Heart Association; and the American Cancer Society, has urged Americans to eat less fat, especially less saturated fat. Without honest meat labels, consumers can’t follow that advice.