On the heels of the recently enacted federal GMO labeling law, USDA has released guidance for labeling meat, poultry and egg products as “Non-GMO”.  

  • “Non-GMO” claims — i.e., claims advertising the non-use of genetic modification (GM) in food production — have become increasingly popular and desirable from a marketing standpoint.  Until now, no clear regulatory definition or oversight of such claims existed.  Effective immediately, however, USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) will begin approving “Non-GMO” claims for meat, poultry and egg products that do not contain bioengineered ingredients or that are derived from livestock that do not consume bioengineered feed.  This new Agency policy stems directly from the passage of the new federal GMO labeling law which mandates USDA to develop and implement a national bioengineered food disclosure standard within 2 years.
  • To facilitate Agency approval of “Non-GMO” claims, USDA’s FSIS has released a compliance guide for companies that seek to make label or labeling claims concerning the fact that bioengineered or GM ingredients were not used in a meat, poultry or egg product.  This guidance document also provides information on how companies can make label or labeling claims that a product was produced from livestock or poultry that were not fed bioengineered or GM feed.  Of note, the FSIS compliance guide adopts the definition of “bioengineering” from the federal GMO labeling law, where the term “bioengineering refers to a food that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques and for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.”
  • The issuance of this guidance document represents the first substantial Agency action in connection with the implementation of the new federal GMO labeling law, and provides some insight into how USDA will approach “Non-GMO” claims for foods regulated by FDA as opposed to USDA.  USDA will be accepting comments on this industry guidance for 60 days following its imminent publication in the Federal Register.