The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has delayed by a year the implementation date of the final rule on retained water in raw meat and poultry products until Jan. 9, 2003 to ensure time for more effective compliance.

The rule limits the amount of water retained by raw, single-ingredient meat and poultry products. Under the regulation, meat and poultry carcasses and their parts will not be permitted to retain water unless it is an unavoidable consequence of processes used to meet food safety requirements. Products with retained water must be labeled accordingly. The rule is intended to provide consumers with more information about the content of the meat and poultry they purchase and assist them in making more informed decisions, according to FSIS.

The rule's effective date was delayed following a petition from numerous trade associations. Although the groups requested that the effective date be delayed until August 2004, FSIS ruled that a one-year postponement of the date would allow sufficient time for processors to prepare for implementation of the rule.

The final rule on water retention also made several technical amendments in the sections of the poultry products inspection regulations that concern poultry chilling practices. The effective date of these amendments remained Jan. 9, 2002.