Is that package of meat you’re buying at the grocery store 100% meat, untouched by injections or additives? If that’s a tray of chipotle lime marinated chicken breast tenders you’re holding, the answer to that question isn’t hard to ascertain. But what if it’s just a plain old unassuming family pack of chicken breasts or pork chops? It’s nice to think that flavor solutions haven’t entered the picture, but that’s not always the case – and it’s not always easy to tell the difference. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is hoping to make things a little bit easier for consumers with packaging labels that would clearly declare added solutions like injections and marinades.
“The intent of labeling guidance provided in the policy memoranda was to provide guidance to industry to develop truthful, easy-to-read labeling information concerning the 7 solutions added to products so that consumers could make informed purchasing decisions,” reads the proposal. “However, it has come to the Agency‘s attention, through the petitions, comments submitted by the public, and FSIS review of labels, that some product labels may not clearly and conspicuously identify that the raw meat or poultry products contain added solution.”
Clear labeling of added solutions is no minor thing. As the FSIS explains, the nutritional information of a solution-injected portion of meat can vary wildly from a non-treated portion that is otherwise exactly the same – in one study noted in the proposal, 4 ounces of a poultry product with added solution (370 mg sodium) had more than an eightfold increase in the amount of sodium from a 4 ounce portion of a single ingredient, raw poultry product (45 mg sodium). That there is currently no regulation in place to label solution treated meat as such leaves a lot of room for misleading.
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The FSIS’s solution is a “common or usual name” for raw meat and poultry products that have been treated with added solutions, along with easily recognizable labels across all brands listing the ingredients added to the treated meat and poultry. As Occupational Health & Safety denotes, a typical label of this sort might read: "chicken breast – 40% added solution of water, salt and sodium phosphate."
For consumers concerned with their health, their sodium intake, or just the choices they make every day about the markets they support, this new labeling regulation could be a very welcome step in the right direction.