The objective of this section is to provide an overview of the statutes pertaining to meat labeling. The basic premise for labeling meat products starts with the statutes that were passed by congress and signed into law by the president. The United States Code (U.S.C.) is the official compilation and codification of the general and permanent federal statutes of the United States. It consists of 50 titles associated with the title's subject matter. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the departments and agencies of the Federal Government. Like the U.S.C., it is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to Federal regulation. A title in the U.S.C. does not always match up with the subject matter of the same title number in the CFR. Both the U.S.C. and the CFR are referenced in this section.

There are a number of statutes that shaped labeling for meat products. In 1906, the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) was passed. The FMIA was the predecessor to modern day meat labeling requirements. Statutes for all foods and labeling for net contents, identity of commodity, name and place of business, as well as the name of the manufacturer, packer or distributor for all consumer commodities influenced modern day meat labeling.

Timeline of Statutes That Affect Meat Labeling

Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA)

The FMIA was passed on June 30, 1906. FMIA strengthened the meat inspection law enacted in 1891 and later amended the law in 1895. The act gave the USDA's Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) inspection and enforcement responsibility for FMIA. The act's key provisions required the following:

The act provided a complete inspection system, the onset of labeling, and enforcement of penalties for all meat products destined for interstate commerce.

On December 15, 1967, the Wholesome Meat Act was passed. The act clarified and amended the FMIA to provide for cooperation with appropriate agencies with respect to state meat inspection programs. The act also strengthened the FMIA adulteration and misbranding regulations and prescribed specific regulations related to pesticide chemicals, food additives, color additives, standards of identity, and standards for fill of containers to have the same meaning as the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (listed below).

Today, FMIA provides a comprehensive inspection and labeling program for meat products. Click here to access the current United States Code (U.S.C.) for meat inspection.

Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA)

The FTCA was passed on September 26, 1914. The act created the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and abolished the Bureau of Corporations. The act's key provisions are:

The act gave the FTC enforcement responsibility for the act by serving a complaint of charges against a person, partnership or corporation and require a hearing appearance before the commission. The commission could apply to the circuit court of appeals of the United States within any circuit where the method of competition in question was used or where such a person, partnership or corporation resides or carries on business for the enforcement of its order.

In 1938, the Wheeler-Lea Act was passed; it amended the FTCA and strengthened the law by prescribing stricter penalties around false advertising and unfair methods of competition.

Today, the FTCA, with its amendments, covers a wide variety of business practices and consumer issues. Section 12 of the FTCA specifically states that the FTC shall prohibit the false advertisement of "foods, drugs, and cosmetics."

The FTC is responsible for regulating claims about food—including meat—that appear in advertising and certain other forms of labeling that may also constitute advertising.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA)

The FFDCA was passed on June 25, 1938 and replaced the Pure Food and Drug act of 1906. The act's purpose was to prohibit the movement in interstate commerce of adulterated and misbranded food, drugs, devices, and cosmetics and for other purposes. The act gave the USDA's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforcement responsibility for the FFDCA. The term "food" was defined as "articles used for food or drink for man or other animals, chewing gum, and articles used for components of any such article." The broadened food term expanded meat beyond the scope of the FMIA to include all "meat food" in interstate commerce. Meat and meat food products were exempt from the provisions of the act to the extent of the application or the extension of the FMIA. The act defined labels, labeling, adulterated and misbranded foods, and prescribed standards of identity.

The act's key provisions are:

The law provided broad labeling requirements and became the standard for labeling food and drug products.

After the FFDCA was introduced, the FDA was moved from the USDA to the Federal Security Agency. The responsibility for labeling meat products stayed at the USDA. Today, FSIS provides a comprehensive labeling program for meat products. Click here to access the current Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) for meat labeling.

Agricultural Marketing Act (AMA)

The AMA was passed on August 14, 1946. It is frequently referred to as the Hope-Flannagan Act. The act's purpose was to provide further research into basic laws and principles relating to agriculture and to improve and facilitate the marketing and distribution of agricultural products. The act gave the Secretary of Agriculture the enforcement responsibility for AMA.

The act's key provisions:

Today, the AMA requires collection and dissemination of marketing information, mandatory livestock, meat and dairy products reporting, grading programs, country of origin reporting for covered commodities, cooperation with other government and state agencies, including relations with farm, trade and industry groups, and research and services and to perform such other activities as will facilitate the marketing, distribution, processing, and utilization of agricultural products through commercial channels.

Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA)

The FPLA was passed on November 3, 1966 and effective on July 1, 1967. The act's purpose is to regulate interstate and foreign commerce by preventing the use of unfair or deceptive methods of packaging or labeling of consumer commodities distributed in commerce. The act directs the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration to issue regulations requiring that all consumer commodities be labeled to disclose net contents, identity of commodity, and name and place of business of the product’s manufacturer, packer or distributor. The Act authorizes additional regulations where necessary to prevent consumer deception—or to facilitate value comparisons—with respect to descriptions of ingredients, slack fill of packages, use of "cents-off" or lower price labeling, or characterization of package sizes.

The FPLA requires each package of household "consumer commodities" to bear a label with the following:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) administers the FPLA with respect to foods, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices. The FTC administers the FPLA with respect to other "consumer commodities" that are consumed or expended in the household.

Meat products are regulated under the FMIA and exempt as a "consumer commodity" under the FPLA. Meat products come under the purview of the FPLA as it relates to unfair or deceptive methods of packaging and marketing of consumer goods. Products that are exempt from the FPLA fall within the purview of the Weights and Measures laws of the individual states.


National Archives.

U.S. Government Publishing Office: Keeping America Informed.

"Statutes at Large." Library of Congress.