The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a Federal Register notice on September 21, 2021, with an updated guideline for packaged meal kits that contain inspected and assembled meat or poultry components. The guideline aids in determining whether a meal kit product needs to be prepared under FSIS inspection and how it needs to be labeled.
A kit product consists of individually packaged meat or poultry products and other food components sold together as a single unit. The guideline does not apply to boxes of ingredients shipped directly to consumers to prepare home-cooked meals, which fall under the retail exemption and are typically prepared and packed without FSIS inspection.
While kits are eligible for FSIS voluntary inspection, FSIS will no longer conduct mandatory inspections for the assembly of nonretail-exempt, multicomponent food kits (i.e., stir fry, pizza, fajitas) with labels that reference meat or poultry, as long as the following criteria are met:
- The meat or poultry must already be prepared and packaged under FSIS inspection and labeled with all required features.
- The outer kit label must clearly identify all of the individual components included in the kit.
- The outer kit label must clearly identify the product as a single unit or a “kit” (i.e., “Chicken Barbecue Dinner Kit,” “Beef Lasagna Meal”).
Kit products that are not FSIS inspected would not have the USDA mark of inspection on the label of the common packaging. Since the meat or poultry components of the kits remain under FSIS jurisdiction and must meet all applicable FSIS labeling requirements, the mark of inspection would be placed on the label and packaging of the meat or poultry component within the kit. Kits not assembled under FSIS inspection that are placed in shipping containers cannot bear the USDA legend on the shipping container.
If you have questions regarding the revised guidelines or any of the labeling requirements, please reach out to Deringer’s Consulting Department.