Labeling Food Products
Most food labels are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Labels for meat and poultry products are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The nutrition information required on the labels of FSIS-regulated products is nearly the same as that for FDA-regulated products. The two agencies have worked together to standardize nutrition labels.
- A Guide to Federal Food Labeling Requirements for Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products (USDA-FSIS, 2007) (PDF 516 KB)
- Close up on Food Labels - Information for California Food Processors (CA Dept. of Health, Food and Drug Branch, 2013) (PDF 653 KB) This publication explains general food label requirements.
- Food and Nutrition Labeling Guide (FDA) The Food Labeling and Nutritional Labeling Guide is a summary of the FDA labeling regulations. This publication is written in easy-to-understand language and is highly recommended reading for anyone developing new food product labels.
- Food Allergens Guidance Documents (FDA) Processors should be aware of potential food allergens in their product. Failure to indicate an allergenic substance on the label could have life threatening consequences.
- FSIS Compliance Guidelines: Allergens and Ingredients of Public Health Concern: Identification, Prevention and Control, and Declaration through Labeling (USDA-FSIS) (PDF 913 KB)
- Guidance for Industry: Refrigerated Carrot Juice and Other Refrigerated Low-Acid Juices (FDA) Refrigerated foods require additional labels that clearly indicate to consumers that the product must be stored under refrigerated conditions.
- Nutrition Labeling (FDA) Nutritional labels are required on most food products. Small businesses can claim an exemption from Nutritional Labeling requirements. However, it is common to have a nutritional label prepared and available for customers upon request even if it doesn’t appear on the label. If you are not making nutritional claims, nutritional labels are typically generated from a database and the product formulation. Camera ready copies of nutritional labels can be purchased from companies that specialize in this type of service.
- Proposed Changes to Nutrition Facts Label (FDA) How to use and understand the Nutrition Facts Label. All components of the nutritional label are clearly explained.
- Label Format (FDA)
- Process Labeling of Food: Consumer Behavior, the Agricultural Sector, and Policy Recommendations (cast-science.org)
- Small Business Nutritional Labeling Exemption (FDA) Small businesses may be exempt from certain labeling requirements if they meet specific criteria.
- The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America (NRDC Report; 2013) (PDF 3.0 MB)
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory The USDA Agricultural Research Service maintains a database of nutritional information on a wide variety of food products available in the U.S. This database is used in many nutritional labeling programs. It can be downloaded into programs or searches can be made on line.
Other Labeling Issues
- UPC Codes
UPC or bar codes are almost mandatory for selling food products in larger retail stores.
- FDA Labeling Regulations
The FDA labeling regulations are found in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (21CFR) parts 100-102.
- USDA Labeling and Additives Policy Division Website
USDA/Food Safety and Inspection Service Labeling and Additives Policy Division (LAPD) develops policies on food labeling, food additives, and product identity standards for meats and products containing meats. This site provides information on procedures and policies, such as Food Standards, Validation Process for Animal Production Claims and the Labeling Policy Book.