Nutrition Action Healthletter
April 2001 — U.S. Edition 
News from CSPI
Meat Labeling: HELP!
Memo from MFJ
85% Fat Free Coffee Haagen-Dazs
While premium ice creams like Häagan-Dazs are “85% fat-free,” in the 1990s the FDA banned “fat-free” claims on foods that aren’t low in fat. But...
85% lean beef
Click on picture to view label
...under pressure from the meat industry, the USDA now wants to allow similar claims (like “85% lean” on labels for fatty ground beef.

   Meat is one of the largest sources of artery-clogging fat in the American diet. But you’d never know it from a visit to your typical supermarket. Unlike almost all other foods, most fresh meat and poultry packages have no “Nutrition Facts” labels.

   In 1997, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI—Nutrition Action’s publisher) petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to require nutrition labels on all meat and poultry packages. Three years later, President Clinton announced that the USDA would do just that. But last January, the department issued a proposal that fell far short of the president’s ambitious promise.

   The USDA’s proposal would require “Nutrition Facts” only on labels for ground beef, poultry, pork, and lamb. While that’s a step forward, supermarkets would be allowed to stow nutrition information for all other types of meat and poultry in brochures or on charts in the meat department.

   Those posters and brochures are worthless. Few shoppers will notice them or have time to study their fine print.

   And even for ground meat and poultry, the USDA partially caved in to industry pressure by permitting their packages to carry deceptive claims like “85% lean.”

   In 1994, the government banned those kinds of claims on all foods—including steak, pork chops, and other meats—that aren’t low in fat. Why? The claim makes even the fattiest ground beef or gourmet ice cream sound low in fat.

   But the USDA’s proposal exempts ground meat and poultry from that ban. The department apparently doesn’t care if deceptive labels mislead consumers who buy “85% lean” ground beef, mistakenly thinking they’re getting lean meat.

   The USDA’s proposal isn’t final, which is where you come in. Please send our coupon (Acrobat 323k) or (better yet) your own letter or e-mail to the USDA by April 18, 2001.

Mike Jacobson
Michael F. Jacobson
Executive Director
Center for Science in the Public Interest



Nutrition Action Healthletter As a member of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), I urge you to require full Nutrition Facts labels on all fresh meat and poultry packages. download .pdf 323k Subscribe Today! Customer Service