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Food Labeling

In order to keep consumers safe and correctly
informed, there are Federal rules and regulations that monitor
food labeling. These laws will mandate what type of information must be
included on food labels. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a Government Agency that
is held responsible for protecting consumer rights in regards to food labeling.
This legislation will specify that the following items be included on food
labels:

Identity

The packaging must name the food that it is
offering, and certain laws may require a brief description of the product.
However, there are certain generic terms, such as “coffee”, that do
not require an explanation. If the term is generally understood to mean one
thing, then it does not need excess description.

Ingredients

All ingredients that are contained within the
food product must be clearly identified and listed under the title,
“ingredients”.  Food labeling requirements mandate that
ingredients be listed in descending order based on their prevalence within the
product. If an ingredient is composed of several lesser ingredients, these must
also be listed. Additives and preservatives, along with their amount, must also
be stated on the food labels. If a specific ingredient is considered to be a
common allergen, this ingredient and its quantity must be explicitly stated.

Nutritional
Facts

Most products will contain a table of nutritional
facts and serving size based on the FDA food pyramid. However, this is not
legally required. Most food labels will contain it because consumers will often
base their purchases on nutritional information. If a product claims to be
nutritionally beneficial, such as “low in fat”, “light”, or
“low in sugar”, then the food labeling must back up this claim with a
nutritional table.

Nutritional
Claims

Nutritional claims must be highly supported.
For example, some food products may claim to be “high in vitamins”.
This claim must be backed up by a nutritional chart that lists the exact
amounts of vitamins and nutrients found within the product. Food labeling
regulations are very strict about these claims because they can easily mislead
a consumer. This legislation will entirely restrict claims that a food can cure
an illness or disease. This is considered fraudulent advertising.

Dates

Food products that are prone to expiring must
include either a use by date or a best before date. A use by date will contain
a day or month where the product will expire. A best before date is a day or
month in which the product will begin to taste stale. Food labeling statutes
absolutely require this information for products that have a shelf life of less
than three months, such as milk.

Storage

Food labels must include instructions if
there are specific conditions in which the product must be stored. This may
include refrigeration, freezing, or keeping out of light.

Instructions
for Use

This is only necessary if this is a product
that is not obvious in the way it should be prepared. For example, food
labeling on frozen products usually must contain instructions for heating.

All of these regulations will protect consumers from fraudulent advertising by food
manufacturers. An informed consumer will be able to make an appropriate choice
when shopping for food products. Also, by requiring food labels to explicitly name all ingredients, it
reduces the risk of consumers being injured by a food allergen.

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