The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) has published its response to a petition that sought to revise the regulations for mandatory safe handling instruction (SHI) labeling for raw and partially cooked meat and poultry products. The petition, which was submitted by a Consumer Federation of America representative on behalf of the Safe Food Coalition (SFC) in 2016, has been denied.
The petition specifically requested that FSIS update the regulations to require that the SHI label:
- Display information about thermometer use and end-point cooking temperatures
- Include the “Check Your Steps” logo that identifies the four safe handling practices instead of the current required graphic
- Be positioned in a manner to ensure the label’s readability
- Include a web address for additional information on safe cooking recommendations.
FSIS contracted third-party researchers to assess whether revisions to the SHI label were necessary through an evaluation of consumer comprehension and behaviors. The results of the consumer research study found that three experimental SHI labels, which contained many of the features that were requested in the petition, did not perform better than the current SHI label regarding visual attention and label adherence. Additionally, while one label was effective at encouraging proper handwashing, it did not influence further behaviors. The study also determined that consumers pay more attention to the manufacturer’s cooking instructions than the SHI label.
Based on the results of the consumer research study, FSIS decided not to amend the SHI label as requested by the petition. However, FSIS states that it will continue to explore new strategies for communicating safe food handling practices to consumers.