Labeling causes water buffalo/bison confusion

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October 15, 2018
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Labeling causes water buffalo/bison confusion

Senators push to stop consumers from getting buffaloed by mislabeled meat

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — A bipartisan group of five U.S. Senators pushed federal regulators to immediately halt the sale of imported water buffalo meat products labeled in a matter that leads consumers to believe they are buying North American bison.

Republican Senators John Hoeven (ND) and John Thune (SD), along with Democratic Senators Michael Bennet (CO), Heidi Heitkamp (ND) and Tom Udall (NM) sent a letter to FDA Deputy Commissioner Stephen Ostroff and USDA Acting Under Secretary Carmen Rottenberg urging prompt action to respond to the National Bison Association’s complaint regarding imported water buffalo meat being labeled only with descriptions such as “Natural Ground Buffalo.”

“Bison ranchers and marketers have worked diligently for more than two decades to build a strong market for bison meat. Their success was built on developing a relationship with the public based upon the great taste and high quality of bison meat,” the senators wrote.

“Because the term buffalo is widely used to describe bison, the failure to label water buffalo transparently and accurately could be misleading to the American consumer.”

The National Bison Association in September filed a formal complaint with the FDA and USDA regarding water buffalo being marketed in a manner to deceive customers into believing they were buying bison meat. The complaint was prompted by a surge of products in the human food and pet products categories containing water buffalo meat that were only labeled as “buffalo.”

Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association, noted, “Americans consider the term buffalo to describe bison. Importers of water buffalo products are buffaloing consumers into believing their products are bison. That’s wrong.”

Carter added, “We appreciate the leadership of these five senators to push the FDA and USDA to immediately address this mislabeling.”

— National Bison Association