Food Labeling

Food Labeling

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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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