Food Labeling Requirements for the FDA

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The Food and Drug Administration has guidelines food labels. FDA requirements or guidelines are set for packaged foods such as bread, canned and frozen food, snacks, desserts and cereals.

FDA Responsibilities

It is the responsibility of the FDA to make sure that food sold in the United States is “safe, wholesome and labeled properly.” This also applies to foods coming into the United States from outside countries. Certain information or statements must appear on food labels to be considered for legal distribution. The FDA requires food labels to contain nutrition labeling, nutrient content and certain health information.

Food Label

There are two ways in which a food label can be placed on a product. One is to place all of the labeling information on the principal display panel (PDP) or the front panel. This is the panel most likely seen by the consumer at the time of purchase. The other method of labeling is to place “specified” information on the PDP and other information on the panel to the immediate right of the PDP label.

The PDP must contain the statement of identity (name of the food) and the net quantity statement (amount of product). The statement of identity is the name of the product by law or regulation.

The Information Panel

The information panel usually contains the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor, the ingredient list and nutrition labeling. The information panel is to the immediate right of the PDP. If panels are folded or the product is designed in another way, the information is in the folds.

Print on the information label must be noticeable and easy to read. The letters of print should measure one-sixteenth in height as based on the lower case letter o. Letters cannot be “more than three times as high as they are wide.” And they have to rest against a significantly contrasting background to be easily read. The information panel cannot be overcrowded with artwork or non-required labeling. There can be no intervening material to interrupt the necessary print on the information panel. It is interesting to know that a UPC bar code is not required information for the information panel.

The Correct Name and Address

Unless the manufacturer’s name is the name of the product, the phrase “manufactured by” or “distributed by” must be present on the packaging, usually on the information panel as well. The full address, starting with the street name and number, city or town, state or country, and ZIP or mailing code must be present on the packaging. The full address is not required if the product is produced and sold in the same state or country.

Ingredients, Nutrition and Label Formats

Ingredients must be listed in descending order by predominance and weight. This means that the ingredients that weigh the most are listed first. The ingredient list may be placed on the PDP or the information panel. Ingredients should also use one-sixteenth lettering based on the lower case o. The ingredient list has to be easy to read also.

The nutrition facts of the product should be with the ingredient list and the manufacturer's address. The nutrition facts must appear on each product, including total calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein and fiber. There is no specific appearance for the label formatting. However, it is recommended that the nutrition label at least have a six- to eight-point font. It can be bigger as well. The wording “Nutrition Facts” must be larger than the other print for the nutrition label.

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