By Randy Fabi
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. consumers would no longer have to wonder whether their local grocery stores are selling recalled meat products under regulations being developed by the Agriculture Department, a senior USDA official said on Wednesday.
Acting Undersecretary Merle Pierson said the department may soon propose a rule to publicly disclose retail outlets that received potentially tainted meat. The USDA currently deems such lists as proprietary information.
“If we have a rule in place, we can have the authority … to make that information available,” Pierson said at a House of Representatives Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
Consumers are currently given the name of the producer of the suspect meat, a list of states that may have sold the food, the reason for the recall and detailed information about the product.
The USDA urges retail stores to alert their customers of recalled products.
“We are always looking at ways to enhance the way we communicate to the public — so more people can be notified,” said Steven Cohen, spokesman for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget was reviewing the proposed rule, Pierson said. The USDA declined to say when the rule would be finalized.
A consumer group praised USDA’s proposed rule.
“This is wonderful,” said Michael Hansen, senior research associate for Consumers Union. “This information is important because … the meat, in many situations, has either already been consumed or sold.”