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U.S. Approves a Label for Meat From Animals Fed a Diet Free of Gene-Modified Products

The Agriculture Department has approved a label for meat and liquid egg products that includes a claim about the absence of genetically engineered products. It is the first time that the department, which regulates meat and poultry processing, has approved a non-G.M.O. label claim, which attests that meat certified by the Non-GMO Project came from animals that never ate feed containing genetically engineered ingredients like corn, soy and alfalfa.

June 20, 2013

The Agriculture Department has approved a label for meat and liquid egg products that includes a claim about the absence of genetically engineered products.

It is the first time that the department, which regulates meat and poultry processing, has approved a non-G.M.O. label claim, which attests that meat certified by the Non-GMO Project came from animals that never ate feed containing genetically engineered ingredients like corn, soy and alfalfa.

The U.S.D.A.’s Food Safety Inspection Service “allows companies to demonstrate on their labels that they meet a third-party certifying organization’s standards, provided that the third-party organization and the company can show that the claims are truthful, accurate and not misleading,” Cathy Cochran, a U.S.D.A. spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Ms. Cochran said the approval for labeling meats did not signal “any new policy regarding non-G.E. or non-G.M.O. products.”

Labeling foods to indicate the absence or presence of genetically engineered ingredients is one of the most contentious issues in the food business today, with about two dozen states mulling labeling requirements and the biotech industry fighting back with intense lobbying.

More and more companies, however, are voluntarily labeling their products, including most recently Chipotle, the thriving restaurant chain, which now points out items containing genetically engineered ingredients on its online menu.

Meat from animals that eat non-G.M.O. feed, like certified organic meats, is highly prized by some consumers, but claims made by meat labels must be approved by the U.S.D.A. When a new company called Mindful Meats submitted a label last fall that included the Non-GMO Project’s certification seal, the department rejected it.

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