Responding to the uproar over "pink slime" and seeking to inform consumers, several companies plan to voluntarily label beef products containing Lean Finely Textured Beef.

USDA's Food Safety Information Service does not anticipate any delay for approval, and processors will soon begin incorporating labels into their product packaging, said Aaron Lavallee, communications coordinator for USDA's Food and Nutrition Service.

Retail labeling of beef products containing LFTB has been an option since it was first included in ground beef products more than a decade ago, according to USDA.

Voluntary statements such as a label indicating ground beef does or does not contain LFTB is considered a claim. USDA regulations require claims to be verified for accuracy before use on product labeling prior to their use by industry. 

LFTB is not listed as an ingredient in ground beef because the product is beef. 

According to a USDA news release, package labels could be approved to carry wording such as:

  • Contains Lean Finely Textured Beef;
  • Contains Finely Textured Beef; or
  • Contains Lean Beef Derived from Beef Trimmings.

Federal meat inspectors will ensure LFTB labels' accuracy through the existing review process for documentation and monitoring of production at processing facilities.

The USDA's decision comes as Congress is considering legislation of LFTB labeling.

On March 30, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, introduced The Requiring Easy and Accurate Labeling of Beef Act (REAL Beef Act) requiring any beef containing finely textured ground beef to have a label at the final point of sale.

The same day, Democratic Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Sam Farr of California made public a letter urging Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to require labeling for products containing LFTB.