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Food Labelling 101: A Guide to FDA Food Labelling Requirements

Food Labelling 101: A Guide to FDA Food Labelling Requirements
Food labelling is an important part of developing trust with your consumers. The NPD estimates that 90% of consumers read the nutritional labels on their food purchases. In addition, being transparent with ingredients and the processes used in creating your food helps you maintain safety and quality.

The FDA guidelines and requirements can be complex and problematic. However, you can ensure your food product(s) follow FDA guidelines and requirements by applying the resources and insights in this food labelling guide.

Food Labeling Basics

There are two types of food labels. The Primary Label is one that most consumers see when they purchase a food product: it is the label that contains the food's name and brand.

It is important to follow both FDA and state requirements when identifying the food, and it must not mislead the consumer in any way. Claims about the health benefits must be backed up by the Nutrition Facts labelling and not be misleading.

The Primary Label should contain information about the amount within the package. You will provide a number count if the item is measured in units or the net quantity in both the metric and U.S. Customary System. The measurement must be on the lower 30% of the Primary Label and parallel with the package's base.

The next type of food label is the Information Panel. Again, you can see a wide variety of these labels here.

The Information Panel contains most of the information consumers will use when deciding on a product to buy. For example, the manufacturer or packer's company name must be on the product, along with an address. In addition, the manufacturer must include the actual street address if they are not listed in local phone books.

Ingredients and Nutrition Facts are included on this label.

The manufacturer or distributor must also include possible allergens in the food. This includes ingredients that are allergens that are handled in the plant where the food is manufactured, even if they are not part of the ingredients. Ingredients should be listed in order of weight within the food.

Read on to find out just what is required on the Nutrition Facts label.

Nutrition Facts Labeling

The requirements for nutrition labelling can be different between food products and beverages, so it's important to identify which category your product falls into. For a deeper dive, check this out.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides a quick guide to help consumers read and understand the Nutrition Facts. It recommends looking first at serving size, calories and then at daily value percentages.

Consumers look at nutrition terms - low in fat, high protein, enriched with Vitamins, etc. All nutrition claims - low, high, enriched - must be reinforced by what is included in your Nutrition Facts. 

There are minimum sizes and required fonts on nutrition labels. The overall idea for those requirements is that most consumers can easily read and understand the Nutrition label. You must know the packaging size to create the appropriate label size and font for food labelling compliance.

Allergen Labeling

Food Labelling

As mentioned before, the FDA guidelines require you to list allergens within the food or processed in the same manufacturing area. Therefore, the areas of allergen labelling are grouped into the following eight categories. 

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Tree Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans

When labelling a possible allergen, it can be listed in two ways: in the ingredients list or immediately after the ingredients in a "Contains" statement.

For example, the allergen can be listed as an ingredient: "Flour (wheat), almond flour (tree nut), lecithin (soy)." It can also be listed in a separate statement as "Contains: wheat, tree nuts, and soy."

Read on to find out what exemptions are provided for food manufacturers and processors. 

Exemptions for Food Labeling

There are two major categories for exemptions to food labelling requirements. 

One is for food retailers who sell less than $500,000 in gross sales per year of all products. The other is for retailers who sell less than $50,000 in gross food and supplement sales. All exemptions require the proper paperwork filled out and filed with the FDA.

The FDA also accepts a low volume exemption. Low-volume businesses sell less than 100,000 units and have less than 10 Full-time employees.

Specific items are exempt from FDA labelling requirements as well. These include raw fruits and vegetables, fish, packaged single item meat products (such as venison, beef, chicken), food served or delivered to be directly consumed. You can find a complete list of exemptions on the FDA Reader.

It is important to note if your product or your company has an exemption, that you must be cautious not to make claims about your food's nutrition or make any health claims on the labelling.

Changes were made to the Nutrition Fact label in 2016 to make labels more open and simple for consumers to understand. Those changes are available in greater detail on the FDA's website, but you can read the general changes in upcoming sections.

Components of Nutrition Labeling

The first component of the Nutrition Label is the Serving Size. As of 2016, the FDA changed from the recommended Serving Size to what the average consumer thinks of as a portion size. 

The next section is mandatory nutrition components. This includes calories, fats (types and amounts of fats), carbohydrates, proteins, and sugars. It also includes a voluntary list of components such as soluble fibre and fluoride.

Supplemental facts on the Nutrition Label include the required Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium levels. In addition, the packager or producer must list all other Vitamins, Minerals, and Nutrients in a particular order. 

The FDA states that the manufacturer must list vitamins and minerals on the label if the following conditions are met:

  1. They appear in a serving of the food.
  2. They are added to the food as a nutrient supplement.
  3. The producer or manufacturer is making claims about the vitamins and minerals in the food.

2016 Changes to Food Labeling Specs

Food Labelling

Some of the changes in 2016 to food labelling specifications were for the consumer's ability to read and understand the nutrition.

These changes include making the calorie information larger and bolder, listing Vitamin D and Potassium. The food specs also require a list of the specific amounts of Vitamin D, Potassium, Calcium, and Iron in a serving.

The FDA also removed requirements for "Calories from Fats" and Vitamin A and Vitamin C in 2016. 

SparkRecipes and other sites have a Recipe Nutrition Calculator that helps new and growing food companies. The calculator will analyze the nutrition elements in their recipes. You can also obtain information from a sample lab analysis of the food you are packaging.

Brand Recognition for Your Products

Aside from the required parts of food product labels, your product needs to stand out from the rest. In a dynamic market, your marketing or brand labels need to grab the attention of consumers. 

A good designer can help you make your product stand out from your competitors and gain brand recognition in a competitive market. In today's competitive marketplace, you need to meet the FDA requirements and offer transparency to your consumers. In addition, you want to make a strong statement about your brand's appeal. 

Let Us Help You with Your Labeling Questions

Clearly, there are a lot of considerations when labelling your food according to FDA standards. It's a complex task that needs the support and expertise that a professional label-making company offers.

To help you navigate the many types of packaging and requirements for producing standard labels, you need an experienced and helpful team who makes the process easier for you.

We want to help you build trust and recognition with FDA label requirements. Our business is making sure you gain the brand recognition you deserve. 

When you are looking at label production, you need to feel confident in obtaining the best packaging and labelling for your product. Sometimes the process is overwhelming, but we are here to help.

Stay current on FDA regulations with our help, and take the hassle out of your required nutrition labels. Besides the FDA requirements, you may need to think about the environmental conditions your labels might encounter, the size of your packaging and labels, and the design of your nutrition and display labels.

Just as you have quality control standards, we have ours in each step - from the design process to shipping your labels. Our exacting standards mean that you get a finished and durable label for your food.

Likewise, our commitment to lowering our carbon footprint means that your labels are made in biodegradable inks and sustainable packaging.

You can download a free label guide PDF at our site at or obtain advice from our experts. 

We are committed to helping you make the best labels and packaging choices for your product. We even offer free digitally printed samples of food labelling and packages.

Reach out today, and let us know how we can help you design and produce excellent FDA-compliant labels. Click here today to obtain a free sample or to read more about our flexible food labelling products!


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