This article walks you through what food labeling is, its importance, must-haves, and some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
Published 14 Jun 2023
Food labeling is the most direct way in which producers communicate the identity and contents of their products to consumers. Food labels contain information about a particular food product. Aside from the ingredients, they also include preparation and/or cooking instructions, expiration dates, and nutritional values, just to name a few. Basically, everything printed on a box, can, or bottle bought in grocery stores, markets, and even restaurants is a food label.
Food labeling is essential for all food products. Producers are legally required to include this because it helps consumers make better decisions when buying, storing, and consuming food.
Food producers are required by law and by Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) to label their products appropriately primarily to ensure the health and safety of the general public. Just by looking at a packaged product, consumers should immediately know what it is, what’s in it, how they can prepare it, and until when it can last on their fridge or shelf.
Food labels also prevent manufacturers and sellers from misleading their customers. Food fraud does not just affect consumers’ finances but also may negatively impact their health.
This is also used to reduce food wastage. According to the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international body dealing with technical and policy matters on food labeling, date markings on food products are directly linked to food waste. Having a full understanding of “best before,” “use by,” and expiration dates can help prevent this serious world problem.
Must-Haves in Food Labeling
Different countries will have particular standards for food labeling. However, most will have these ten basic labeling requirements for food products:
Aside from the brand name, the actual product with a specific description of what it is should be clearly stated on the packaging. For instance, apricot jam and apricot preserve are two completely different items.
This refers only to the food’s weight or volume. The packaging must be excluded. However, for canned products, the liquid is included in the net weight.
This could either be a “Use By” or “Best Before” date. The former is often indicated on perishables like fresh meat, fish, poultry, and milk products. The latter is generally found on pantry items with longer shelf life like cereals, flour, and canned products. Bread, pastries, and similar food products usually have a “Baked On” date.
Aside from the expiry dates, this number is important so that food products can be safely recalled in cases of accidental contamination or similar problems.
Every single component in the food product must be listed on the label, from the one with the highest proportion to the one with the least. Any chemical additives must have their functional name, as follows: PRESERVATIVE “butylated hydroxyl toluene (BHT)”.
This is one of the most important labeling requirements for food because even the smallest amount of allergen could trigger a major health emergency. Nuts, shellfish, milk, eggs, and similar allergens must be printed in bold below the list of ingredients.
This panel shows the calories (kilojoules), carbohydrates, protein, fat, and other vitamins and minerals per serving size.
Consumers should be informed as to how food products can be specifically stored (e.g., keep frozen or chilled in the fridge once opened) or cooked.
The complete name and address of the manufacturer should also be indicated on food labels. If these have been packed, distributed, or imported by another company, their information should be included as well.
This is a requirement under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must be printed in close proximity to the manufacturer information. Other countries, like New Zealand, do not consider this a must-have.
Eliminate manual tasks and streamline your operations.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is the organization directly responsible for setting standards and policies on food labeling all over the world. Each country has its own regulatory bodies.
In the United States, it is the Food Labeling and Claims that specifically regulates food labels. However, the FDA food labeling guide focuses on nutrition facts, as their office is responsible for ensuring that all food products sold in the country are safe and nutritious.
The five most important labeling guidelines under the FDA are:
The USDA or the U.S. Department of Agriculture specifically meat and poultry products while the FDA covers other food products.
No. Every country has its own set of product labeling guidelines.
Yes. It would be best to inquire about these details with the FDA and other regulatory offices.
It may not be your intention to mislead your potential customers but even the most minor mistakes in food labeling may cause legal problems and cost you your business. If you want to be certain that the information you’re putting out there is true and accurate, SafetyCulture can be of great help.
Here are some ways in which SafetyCulture can be of assistance in your food labeling projects:
Eunice Arcilla Caburao
Eunice is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. A registered nurse, theater stage manager, Ultimate Frisbee athlete, and mother, Eunice has written a multitude of topics for over a decade now.
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