USDA Says 60% of Watered-down Meat and Poultry Should be Better Labeled

Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson

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USDA's new rules, aimed at informing consumers and reducing deception, will make it clear to shoppers that many meat and poultry products are adulterated, not enhanced, with high percentages of salty solutions. According to USDA, about 60 percent of all raw meat and poultry products are injected with or soaked in a salty solution that dilutes the products with water and pollutes them with sodium. That sodium increases blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

USDA says that some products might have as much as 40 percent added solution, but you can bet that the processors don't reduce their prices by a similar amount. I hope that USDA's action will encourage companies to compete on the basis of using less of the added salty solutions. Consumers shouldn't be tricked into paying chicken (or pork or beef) per-pound prices for water and salt.

Ideally, USDA would have abandoned the word "enhanced" altogether in the case of these watered-down products. USDA is barring the use of "enhanced" as part of product names, but still allowing it elsewhere on labels or in advertising. And, while USDA proposed requiring the "contains solution" statement to be printed in the same size type as the product name, the final regulation requires the print to be only 1/3 the size.