Fluoride Action Network

Poultry Products Produced by Mechanical Separation and Products In Which Such Poultry Products Are Used

Source: Federal Register - Final Rule | November 3rd, 1995 | U.S. Department of Agriculture - Food Safety and Inspection Service

SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is amending the
Federal poultry products inspection regulations to prescribe: a
definition and standard of identity and composition for the poultry
product that results from the mechanical separation and removal of most
of the bone from skeletal muscle and other tissues of poultry carcasses
and parts of carcasses (“Mechanically Separated (Kind of Poultry)”–
hereafter referred to generically as “Mechanically Separated Poultry”
(“MSP”)), including requirements for bone solids content (measured as
calcium content) and bone particle size; certain limitations for the
use of MSP; and labeling requirements for MSP, and for poultry products
and meat food products containing MSP as an ingredient. This action
establishes the requirement that products containing MSP as an
ingredient disclose that fact by identifying it in the ingredients
declaration as, in the case of MSP derived from chicken carcasses,
“mechanically separated chicken,” rather than “chicken.” This
action will help ensure that meat and poultry products distributed to
consumers are not labeled in a false or misleading manner and are not

EFFECTIVE DATE: November 4, 1996.


II. Report on Health and Safety of Mechanically Deboned Poultry

In 1976, FSIS initiated an analytical program to obtain data on a
number of nutrients and substances of potential health concern in
poultry products produced by mechanical separation. Data were also
gathered from scientific literature, industry, other government
agencies, and university scientists. Details of the analytical program
and a resulting evaluation were published in a June 1979 report
entitled “Health and Safety Aspects of the Use of Mechanically Deboned
Poultry” (hereafter referred to as the 1979 Report). An errata
supplement correcting certain items in the report was prepared and
published on August 14, 1979 (44 FR 47576). (The 1979 Report and the
errata supplement are available for public inspection in the FSIS
Docket Clerk’s office.) On June 29, 1979, the Agency announced the
availability of this report and encouraged interested members of the
public to comment on its content.

The 1979 Report evaluated the effects on health and safety of use
of mechanically separated poultry and, in particular, examined the
heavy metal, trace element, bone particle, chlorinated hydrocarbon,
cholesterol, fat, essential amino acid, total protein, and purine
contents of MSP, as well its microbiology. The 1979 Report recommended
that (1) potential health risks associated with cadmium in kidneys from
mature chickens would be avoided by not allowing kidneys from mature
chickens in MSP, (2) potential risks to children associated with
fluoride in MSP from fowl could be avoided by not allowing MSP from
fowl in baby foods, (3) MSP should be labeled to show the presence of
cholesterol and calcium for the benefit of people who needed to
restrict their intake of these substances, and (4) mandatory handling
and storage of starting materials used for making MSP should be

The Agency disagreed with commenters’ objections to the tentative
positions taken in the March 1994 ANPR on restricting the uses of
mechanically separated poultry as an ingredient in certain products,
e.g., in baby foods where there was a potential health effect
associated with fluoride in mechanically separated poultry made from
fowl, and where the textural characteristics of mechanically separated
poultry altered the basic nature of the product to which it may be
added, such as products represented as being composed of whole muscle.
FSIS maintained the position that such restrictions were necessary for
health reasons (in the case of the fluoride issue) or to protect the
consumer from misleading labeling.

The Agency’s positions on these major issues led to the publication
of the December 6, 1994 proposed rule.

VII. Proposed Rule

On December 6, 1994, FSIS published a proposed rule to amend the
Federal meat and poultry products inspection regulations to define and
standardize, and establish other requirements for poultry products
produced by mechanical separation, including provisions for the
composition and use of such products, and requirements for
manufacturing and labeling such products (59 FR 62629).
The proposal prescribed a definition and
standard of identity for poultry products produced by mechanical
separation with 1 percent or less bone solids content, that required
compliance with certain criteria, e.g., bone solids content (measured
as calcium content) and bone particle size. The proposal also provided
recordkeeping and labeling requirements, and limitations on use of
poultry products produced by mechanical separation.

A. Product Definition and Standard

FSIS proposed to prescribe a definition and standard of identity
and composition for the poultry product with a paste-like form and
batter-like consistency that results from the mechanical separation of
and removal of most of the bone from attached skeletal muscle and other
tissue of poultry carcasses and parts of carcasses which has a bone
solids content of 1 percent or less. This product is commonly known in
the poultry industry as mechanically separated or deboned poultry.

FSIS proposed that the boneless poultry products regulations
described in 9 CFR 381.117(d) no longer apply to MSP. FSIS indicated
that the current restriction on bone solids content in this regulation,
as enforced by limiting calcium content, would be included with other
compositional requirements in an MSP standard. Moreover, as a
standardized product, MSP would be differentiated from other poultry
product ingredients and it would be designated in the ingredients
statements on finished product labels by the name specified in its
definition and standard, in accordance with 9 CFR 317.2(c)(2) and
(f)(1) and 381.118(a). Product failing to meet the bone solids content
or bone particle size restrictions of the standard must be labeled as
“Mechanically Separated (Kind) For Further Processing” and may only
be used in producing poultry extractives, including fats, stocks, and
broths because the manufacturing process completely removes the bone
solids and bone particles.

1. Product name. FSIS proposed to define the standardized product
that results from the mechanical separation and removal of most of the
bone from poultry carcasses and parts of carcasses by a distinctive
name. FSIS proposed that such product be called “mechanically
separated chicken” or “mechanically separated turkey,” for example.
FSIS indicated that this product differs significantly from boneless
poultry products produced by traditional hand-deboning techniques in
its spread-like form and consistency such that it should be regulated
as a separate, standardized ingredient. FSIS indicated that it would
welcome comments on other names that accurately reflected the process
from which this product was derived, as well as its form and

2. Bone solids content. FSIS proposed that the definition and
standard for MSP incorporate the existing restriction on the bone
solids content of mechanically separated poultry products of not more
than 1 percent (9 CFR 381.117(d)). FSIS also proposed that the
definition and standard include maximum calcium content levels of not
more than 0.235 percent in product made from turkeys or mature chickens
or 0.175 percent in product made from other poultry, as a measure of
bone solids content based on the weight of product that has not been
heat treated.

3. Bone particle size. FSIS proposed that at least 98 percent of
the bone particles present in MSP be restricted to a maximum size no
greater than 1.5 millimeters (mm) in their greatest dimension and that
no bone particles could be larger than 2.0 millimeters in their
greatest dimension.

4. Recordkeeping. FSIS also proposed that establishments that
manufactured MSP maintain records of bone solids content and bone
particle size as a measure of process control. These records had to be
made available to the inspector and any other duly authorized
representative of the Secretary upon request.

B. Limitations on Use

FSIS proposed certain limitations with respect to the use of MSP in
the formulation of poultry and meat food products. FSIS proposed such
restrictions based on the potential fluoride contribution of MSP made
from fowl (i.e., mature female chickens) and the characteristics of
MSP, including the kind of poultry from which it is made and its form
and consistency. FSIS also proposed that MSP may be used, except in
certain cases, in any product defined by regulatory standards or Agency
policies whereby “(Kind)” or “(Kind) Meat” (e.g., “turkey,”
“turkey meat”) are being used, provided that it is identified as
“Mechanically Separated (Kind)” and conforms to requirements
regarding the presence of skin within natural proportions (9 CFR

1. Kind of product limitation. FSIS proposed that when a poultry
product is required to be prepared from a particular kind or kinds of
poultry, (e.g., chicken), use of MSP of any other kind (e.g.,
mechanically separated turkey), would not be permitted. This provision
assures that the kind of MSP used in a poultry product, such as
mechanically separated chicken, is the same kind as is represented in
the product name or other labeling. For example, product named
“chicken bologna” could not be composed of mechanically separated
turkey because such action could, among other things, result in false
or misleading labeling by implying that the bologna was made with a
chicken ingredient, when, in fact, it contained a turkey ingredient.

2. Limitations on product made from fowl. FSIS proposed that the
use of mechanically separated chicken made, in whole or in part, from
fowl (i.e., mature female chickens, as defined in 9 CFR
381.170(a)(1)(vi)) not be permitted in baby, junior, or toddler foods.
The Agency based these restrictions on the potential fluoride
contribution of product made from fowl to dietary intakes of young

The Agency noted that this position was supported by the 1979
Report, which was the best data available. FSIS recognized, however,
that views on fluoride consumption have changed in the last few years,
and in particular, recent views on the benefits of fluoride in the
diet, including the diets of children. Comments were invited on this
issue that would have an impact on the current validity of the proposed
restriction on use of MSP from fowl …

See also: Federal Register, April 13, 1998: Meat Produced by Advanced Meat/Bone Separation Machinery and Recovery Systems