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Quick Guide to the FDA’s Food Labeling Regulations

Words by 3p Contributor
Energy & Environment

By Dana Harris

Whether you approve of or criticize the FDA’s ways of regulating food-related issues, there’s no way of going around it. The FDA is in charge of regulating about 80 percent of food products and food packaging labels on the U.S. market. So, if you are a food producer, you better familiarize yourself with the agency’s requirements for proper food labeling.

Many food producers agree that the FDA regulations on food labeling are complex and sometimes not clearly defined, so creating a label that will pass authorization and not be a reason for penalties is not so easy to do. Food manufacturers often team up with food labeling experts to come up with a food label that will contain all of the information required by law. However, before paying money for a food packaging label that’s compliant with FDA regulations, it is wise to know at least the basics of proper food labeling:

1. Most packaged food products sold and distributed in the U.S. require labels that will contain the following information:

  • Statement of identity, which is the common name for that type of food (e.g. sausages)

  • Net weight of the product

  • Address of the producer or distributor

  • List of ingredients (starting from the heaviest, to the lightest)

  • Nutrition facts (consisting of information about the serving size, nutrients, and vitamins and minerals)
2. Placement of food label elements and font type are also very important. The FDA instructs food manufacturers how to make the key information about their product prominent and easy to spot by consumers:

  • Principal Display Panel and Information Panel are two parts of a label that are facing the consumer and that need to contain the five mandatory food label elements.

  • There is no requirement for the specific font style, but the type needs to be at least size 6 and in good contrast with the background for the nutrition facts label (the FDA recommends white background and black font).
3. The eight most common food allergens must be included in the ingredients list. They are: wheat, eggs, milk, tree nut, peanut, fish, crustacean shellfish, soybeans.

4. Five nutrients that must appear on all nutrition facts labels are:

  • Calories

  • Total Fat

  • Sodium

  • Total Carbohydrates

  • Protein
5. The FDA is proposing changes to the nutrition facts label after more than 20 years and, among other improvements, the changes should reflect the reality of how much food people actually eat (which is not the case now, with unrealistic serving sizes).

To learn a bit more about the basics of proper food labeling, food producers can download this e-book on FDA Food Label Requirements in a Nutshell. It’s a recently created resource that condenses pages and pages of information on labeling as advised by the FDA, and it’s a good resource for both consumers and food producers, but especially for people who are new in the food business. It also provides links to all the relevant pages on the FDA website where food business owners can find more information.

Image credit: FoodPackagingLabel.net

Dana Harris is a food market analyst for FoodPackagingLabels.net, the manufacturer of high-quality blank and custom food packaging labels. She is part of their creative team that provides interesting and helpful resources to food producers and consumers.

3p Contributor

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