Food traceability is an integral system that supports food safety by making the production process transparent. Read the article to learn how to do...
Food Labels: Understanding Food Labeling Requirements for Safety and Quality
Food labels are a way for producers to communicate what their products can offer consumers and how they can maintain ...
Food labels are a way for producers to communicate what their products can offer consumers and how they can maintain safety.
The first thing a customer sees in a product is its food label. These labels are not just ordinary tags but are critical tools for communicating product information to consumers. They are the gateway to understanding a product's composition, nutritional content, and safety information.
In today's age of diverse dietary preferences, health consciousness, and food allergies, food labels play a critical role. They help shape consumer choices, promote transparency by producers, and ensure the well-being of those who rely on the foods they purchase.
Key points covered:
- Food labels are product tags that communicate essential information about the product to potential consumers.
- Food labeling is the act of providing product information on the packaging of a food product.
- Food labels may either be standardized requirements or custom food labels for marketing.
- Food packaging labels must contain product information, such as the brand name, nutritional information, list of ingredients, allergen warning, and shelf life, among other critical information.
- Food labeling requirements vary from one country to another.
- Food labels help producers protect consumers by providing safety instructions and information to them.
- FoodDocs' smart Food Safety Management System can help you store and manage food label information with a Smart Recipe Book.
- Use our comprehensive Traceability System that can be used as a reference in case of food recalls.
WHAT WE'LL COVER:
What are food labels?
Food labels are informative tags featured on food packaging. The information that food labels provide helps improve consumer awareness and make more informed choices in buying products.
From a business perspective, food labels help businesses create a comprehensive traceability system with the information from food labels.
Food labels provide important details about the product's contents, manufacturer's information, nutritional value, ingredients, safety precautions, portion sizes, and more.
This set of information is critical in ensuring accountability among food businesses. The information can be used to track the movement of products along the supply chain and determine which batches are safe or unsafe in case of widespread contamination.
Food safety agencies strictly regulate the information that goes into labels for food packaging to ensure that they are correct, accurate, and consistent.
Food labels are often printed or pasted onto the original product container for pre-packed food products. For fresh food types or non-prepacked food, paper labels are often used with adhesive tapes.
What is food labeling?
Food labeling is the process of providing a product's identity, contents, storage information, handling, and safety precautions, typically in the form of labels or tags.
Labeling foods is a common and essential food safety requirement to help prevent unwanted food safety incidents and promote healthier consumer choices.
What are food safety labels?
Food safety labels are specific product tags, symbols, or labels on food products that specifically relate to food safety. They are designed and used to inform consumers about the safety and handling instructions of a particular food to prevent foodborne illnesses.
- Storage requirements/ Conditions of display
- Cooking instructions
- Use-by or Best before dates
- Food allergen warning
- Safe handling instructions
- Non-GMO label
- Organic label
Food safety labels are critical in preventing foodborne illnesses and related incidents to ensure the safe consumption of food products. The information that they provide is essential for guiding customers on how to preserve safety in foods from their end.
The labels can also be used for making comparisons between foods when making healthful food choices.
What are the types of food labels?
The main objective of food labels is to inform.
The type of food product label used in a product informs customers about a particular aspect of the product. The information customers get is a combination of the two primary types of food labels, which are:
- Custom labels created by food producers
- Standardized labels mandated by government agencies
Each type plays a distinct role in shaping our understanding of the foods in the market. All parts of standardized labels are mandatory as per food regulations, whereas some custom labels are optional but may play a significant role in other aspects of promotion.
Learn more about them below.
Custom labels created by food producers
Custom labels are also known as proprietary labels. They provide information about the products given by the food producers themselves. This type of label may include branding, unique dietary claims, and marketing messages.
Custom labels provide producers with an opportunity to distinguish their offerings from competitors and connect with consumers on a personal level.
Some examples of custom labels include the following:
- Branding. This type of label includes the product's brand name, logo, and other images that will help distinguish your product.
- Product claims. This label includes claims certified by accreditors, such as "gluten-free," "organic," and "non-GMO."
- Marketing messages. Producers can use custom labels to convey their brand's story, mission, or ethical practices, which can resonate with consumers.
- Unique designs. Custom labels offer flexibility in design, enabling producers to create eye-catching and distinctive packaging that stands out on the shelf.
- Additional nutritional information. In addition to the standardized nutritional information mandated by agencies, producers may include nutritional claims on food labels. Such labels may include high in dietary fiber, fortified with iron, and high in vitamins and minerals.
Custom labels are commonly used to illustrate individuality and branding in a product. They are used as a way of marketing the product to consumers through different messages.
Standardized labels mandated by government agencies
Standardized labels, on the other hand, are regulated and mandated by government agencies. These labels follow strict guidelines and are designed to provide consistent and essential information to consumers.
These labels aim to provide transparency and safety among customers when they use your products.
Standardized labels include all primary parts of a food label:
- Ingredients list
- Allergen information
- Nutritional information
- Shelf-life or Storage conditions
- Preparation instructions
Government agencies establish these labels to ensure uniformity, transparency, and safety in the food industry.
They are made readily available for consumers to make informed choices and protect themselves from unwanted food safety incidents.
What information has to be on a food label?
In addition to the main parts of a food label, we also discuss the following topics in this section:
- What is the nutrition facts label?
- What are allergen labels?
- What are common food labeling requirements?
- Which agency regulates food safety and labeling?
Food labels are required to provide specific information about the products to consumers. Such information will help describe the nutritional value, safety, proper handling, and storage of the food products. The information will also help mid and end users, including retail food establishments and consumers, keep the products safe.
The exact requirements for food labels may vary by country, but there are common elements found on food labels in many regions.
Here is the list of the information that is mandatory to have on the packages:
- Product name. The descriptive and brand names of the product.
- Ingredients list. A list of the composition of food products. This information is typically presented in descending order of quantity.
- Nutrition facts. This section provides information about the nutritional content of the food. The information includes the macronutrients of the food, calorie content, serving size, and dietary fibers.
- Allergen information. Refers to any potential allergen present in the food, making it easier for individuals with food allergies to identify potential allergens.
- Expiration date or Best-before date. Indicates the last recommended date that the product can be consumed safely.
- Net weight. The total weight of the product.
- Manufacturer and Distributor information. The name, contact information, and company's address responsible for the product.
- Dietary or nutrition claims. Includes any feature claim, such as "low fat," "organic," "low salt content," or "non-GMO."
- Preparation instructions. Guidance on how to properly use, cook, or prepare the product.
- Storage instructions. Information on how to store the product to maintain its quality and safety.
- Safety warnings.Warnings related to safe handling and storage, especially for products that require special precautions.
To ensure compliance with local food labeling regulations, manufacturers and producers must adhere to the labeling guidelines and standards established by the relevant food safety authorities in their region.
Regardless of which information applies to your business, it is critical that every food business operator has complete records and control of food label information. Use FoodDocs' smart Food Safety Management System that features a Digital Recipe Book, which compiles and organizes all food label information of your products.
Using this software feature, you can upload all critical information about your product into our system. Information is then presented to your team members as an organized recipe book. Keep ingredients, special preparation techniques, dietary claims, and other information all together in our Digital Recipe Book.
What is the nutrition facts label?
The Nutrition Facts label is a standardized panel found on most packaged food products. This label provides information about the product's nutritional content to help consumers make dietary choices.
The label includes the following key components:
- Serving size
- Macronutrients (e.g., protein and carbohydrate contents)
- Percent Daily Value
Food package nutrition labels are essential for consumers as they will help them determine the nutritional intake they make. The information in this panel is also critical for individuals on strict daily diets.
Experts use this packet label as a reference for nutrition advice on the essential vitamins an individual needs. They use this information to suggest healthier foods and friendly options to individuals with medical conditions.
What are allergen labels?
Allergen labels are designed to inform consumers about the presence of a particular allergen in a food product. The food components listed in this label may vary from one country to another.
Allergen labels are critical for people with food allergies or sensitivities, as accidental consumption of allergenic ingredients can have severe health consequences.
Allergen labels may also include information about potential cross-contact risks, especially in facilities where allergenic ingredients are processed or packaged. These labels are mandatory and marked alongside the ingredients list.
What are common food labeling requirements?
Food labeling requirements include regulations and standards set by government agencies to ensure that useful information about safety and health is indicated in labels. These legal requirements help regulate the food industry and ensure public health safety.
Some basic labeling requirements for food include the following:
- The actual country of origin should be stated in the packaging.
- The common ingredient name of the food or drink product must be listed in descending order of weight.
- Manufacturers must practice percentage labeling for ingredients on food labels.
- Sub-ingredients of compound ingredients must be listed in parentheses.
- Some complex ingredients can be shortened, provided government agency regulations approve them.
- Some food additives, such as color additives, may be listed using their approved codes.
- The total quantity of the product by weight must be noted.
- The alcohol content of alcoholic drinks must be mentioned in the food packaging.
- The information on the nutrition information label must be accurate and backed by food analyses.
Food producers are responsible for knowing and understanding the particular labeling requirements applicable to their products.
These basic label requirements aim to ensure that consumers have access to accurate and helpful information about the food products they purchase and consume. The accurate information can help them make more informed food choices and reduce the likelihood of chronic diseases or unwanted allergic reactions.
Which agency regulates food safety and labeling?
Food safety and labeling are regulated by government agencies that are responsible for ensuring the safety and integrity of products in the country. The particular agency responsible for food safety and labeling varies from one country to another.
- United States
Food safety is primarily regulated by both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS). Regarding food labeling, the FDA provides most of the regulations and labeling requirements, including nutrition labeling, ingredient lists, and health claims on food packaging.
- United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for both safety and labeling regulations. The agency provides strict guidelines for ensuring that all foods in the UK market are safe for human consumption and accurately labeled.
What are the major differences in food labeling requirements between the US and the UK?
Food labeling in the UK and the US has many similarities. Despite this fact, the food safety regulations in these countries have distinct differences regarding food labeling.
Here are some major differences between the food labeling requirements in the two countries:
- Nutritional label format
- In the US, nutrition declaration must indicate the number of servings per package, whereas the UK bases its calorie label on 100g or 100ml of the product.
- The US regulations require producers to include information on serving size, calories, and macronutrients (e.g., protein and carbohydrates) and require them to be spelled out. In the UK, macronutrients are indicated using a combination of colour-coding on pre-packaged foods.
- Reference values
- The US uses the reference value of 2,000 calories for Percent Daily Values on nutrition labels, whereas the UK uses 2,500 calories. These reference intake values help determine the nutritional content of foods according to the recommended intake of consumers.
- Allergen labelling
- Date labeling
- The US primarily uses "Best-By date" or "Use-By date" to indicate food quality only, without any bearing on safety. On the other hand, the UK also uses "Best Before" and "Use By" dates, but they are used to refer to the product's safety.
- Organic food labeling
- The UK and the US regulations both use the phrase "100% Organic" custom food stickers to indicate pure organic products. Meanwhile, the US uses only the word "Organic" for products with at least 95% organic ingredients and "Made with organic" for 70% organic ingredients. In the UK, the term "Made with organic" encompasses all products made with 70-95% organic ingredients.
Here is a quick summary of the major differences in US and UK labeling requirements:
|Aspect of Food Labeling||FDA food labeling guide||FSA labeling guide|
|Nutritional Pack Label Format||
- Calorie label based on number of servings per package.
- Spelled-out macronutrients.
- Calorie label based on 100g or 100ml.
- Color-coded macronutrient labels.
|Reference Values||- 2,000 calories for Percent Daily Values.||- 2,500 calories for Percent Daily Values.|
|Allergen Labeling||- Recognizes 9 major food allergens.||- Recognizes 14 major food allergens.|
|Date Labeling||- Uses "Best By" or "Use By" for product quality, not safety.||- Uses "Best Before" and "Use By" to indicate product safety.|
|Organic Food Labeling||- "100% Organic" for pure organic products. - "Organic" for at least 95% organic ingredients. - "Made with organic" for 70% organic ingredients.||- "100% Organic" for pure organic products. - "Organic" for at least 95% organic ingredients. - "Made with organic" for 70-95% organic ingredients.|
Keep all food label information organized using FoodDocs' intuitive Food Safety Management System. With the help of our smart software and our Digital Recipe Book, you can compile all critical information about your product.
Set up your comprehensive database of product information by simply mass uploading your recipes to our food system. All information, including name, ingredients, preparation instructions on labels, allergen information, and special storage conditions, will be immediately compiled for your convenience. The information will then be used to generate an allergen matrix and automatically resize recipes.
Learn more by using our free 14-day trial.
Why is food labeling important for food safety?
Food labeling is a critical aspect of any food product.
It is used to bridge a seamless communication between producers and consumers.
To help consumers select which products match their dietary preferences and health requirements, producers must provide key product information.
- Safety and allergen information. Food labels provide essential information about the presence of common allergens that individuals can use to avoid potentially life-threatening reactions. Clear allergen information helps prevent accidental consumption of allergenic ingredients.
- Traceability. Country of origin labels and traceability information on food labels can be crucial for food safety. In the event of food recalls or outbreaks, traceability data allows authorities to identify and remove potentially contaminated products from the market quickly.
- Ingredient transparency. Labels provide a complete list of the ingredients, which can help consumers identify potentially harmful ingredients based on their health requirements. This transparency is crucial for people with dietary restrictions or cultural preferences (e.g., Halal).
- Nutritional transparency. Nutrition labels provide detailed information about a product's nutritional content. This data allows consumers to make informed choices based on their diet and health goals, reducing the risk of overconsumption or inadequate nutrient intake.
- Regulatory compliance. Food labels must adhere to food laws and standards, ensuring that products meet specific safety criteria.
- Prevention of food fraud. Accurate labeling can help avoid food fraud, where products are misrepresented. Clear labeling and traceability make it more difficult for unscrupulous actors to mislead consumers about the true nature of a product.
All food producers must comply with a country's food labeling rules.
Doing so ensures a safe and secure food supply chain for businesses and consumers. In case of problems, such as food recalls, your information will help agencies minimize damages.
Allow FoodDocs to help your business secure the traceability of your products. With the help of our two-in-one Traceability System with a production management module, you can create a comprehensive database of your products that can be used in cases such as food recalls.
Our Traceability System features advanced search options that allow you to sort information easily and download only the necessary information. Make recalls and other traceability activities easier and more efficient with the help of our smart software.
Why do food products have food labels?
Food labels act as a way to communicate the main features of a product to consumers. They provide information about the ingredients, nutritional content, allergens, added value, and safety precautions tied to a product.
Food labels can help consumers make healthier choice and preserve the safety of products from their end. In cases of food safety incidents, they are critical in identifying the range of affected products that need to be recalled.
Labels in foods act as the main source of information about the product for both customers and food manufacturers.
How to effectively organize proper food labeling with FoodDocs?
Food labeling benefits both the customers and the producers. The label information found on food products helps you control the products released in the market.
In case of a food recall or any other food incident, producers can easily identify which batches are affected and must be withdrawn from the market.
In aiming to achieve the best results out of the benefits of food labeling, your food business must implement a comprehensive traceability system along with a food safety management system.
Get both systems with one software using FoodDocs' smart Food Safety Management System.
Manage food labeling information with the help of the following product features from FoodDocs:
- Digital Recipe Book for organizing food label information
- Automatically generated Allergen Matrix for controlling potential food allergens
- Traceability and monitoring system for tracing product and ingredient movement
- Real-time dashboard for managing food safety
Digital Recipe Book for organizing food label information
Using our smart software, you can easily upload all product information that goes into your food labels using our Digital Recipe Book. With this feature, you can encode information such as the following:
- Recipe ingredients
- Nutritional information
- Labeling requirements
- Preparation and consumption guide
- Storage conditions
- Allergen information
- Ingredient batch numbers
All of this information will be organized and efficiently presented in one central Recipe Book.
Based on the information you add to the Smart Recipe Book, our software can automatically recalculate production yield and the required amount of ingredients.
Smart Recipe Book from FoodDocs software
Ensure that all food label information is accessible to your employees. You can use this recipe book as a reference for the product information that goes on your food labels.
Automatically generated Allergen Matrix for controlling potential food allergens
An integral part of our Digital Recipe Book is its feature to automatically generate a comprehensive allergen matrix from your products. Based on the information you input into the recipe book, our system will automatically identify the relevant major allergens in each of your recipes.
The recipes will then be listed under an Allergen Matrix with the major allergens applicable to your business location. The matrix is automatically updated when you insert more recipes with allergens.
The Allergen Matrix is also customizable if you want to improve the information.
You can print the Allergen Matrix and add it to your menu labeling requirements or use the information to guide your employees on the allergens that must be recognized in the food label.
Traceability and system for tracing product and ingredient movement
FoodDocs' Traceability System was built to allow you to track the movement of their ingredients and products in the supply chain. Use the information from food labels to identify the range of products affected by unwanted food incidents.
- Product name
- Product ingredients
- Batch number
- Total amount produced
- Expiry date
Food Traceability System from FoodDocs software
Counterchek production batch numbers on food labels to identify the extensiveness of food recalls or withdrawals to perform. Easily access information with our system's advanced search options.
Each traceability input can be further improved by attaching monitoring tasks from our system. Incorporate relevant monitoring tasks and logs into each batch entry as proof of compliance with regulations, including food safety and labeling.
Real-time dashboard for managing food safety
Maintain complete control of your food safety status with the help of our real-time dashboard.
With the help of this monitoring feature, you can get a quick overview of your food safety status and save at least 20% of your time from managing your team. Quickly identify key areas affecting food labeling operations and immediately apply corrective actions.
Stay on top of all related food safety requirements by using our smart tool that will give you a summary of your operations.
Real-time dashboard from FoodDocs software
Ensuring proper food labeling is equal parts monitoring, traceability, and compliance with the relative regulations. You can easily achieve and maintain these three core requirements with the help of FoodDocs' AI-powered Food Safety Management System.
You can also keep all food label information organized and secured in a central system to ensure food safety while ensuring compliance with the essential food labeling legislation in your business location. Equip your team with the necessary tools to keep them ready to face unwanted food incidents and minimize challenges by keeping all traceability and label information in one accessible cloud space.
Book a demo to experience our software features and understand the benefits we could offer to your company.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
To help you understand more about food safety labels, here are a few of the most common questions asked regarding this topic:
What are the two purposes of product labels?
Two purposes of product labels are (1) to inform consumers about the product's content and characteristics and (2) to establish brand identity and share marketing messages from producers.
What is mandatory on a food label?
Some of the mandatory mandatory information for a food product label includes the product name, the ingredient list, allergen information, the nutrition facts panel, and the manufacturer's contact information.
What is the correct way to label food?
The correct way to label food involves following government regulations and standards, which vary by country. Food labels must accurately reflect the product's content and adhere to prescribed formatting and labeling requirements.
What are the 5 mandatory requirements for labeling packaged food?
The five mandatory requirements for labeling packaged food include:
- product name
- ingredient list
- allergen information
- nutrition facts panel
- 5. manufacturer or distributor contact information
What are the FDA requirements for labeling?
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the United States has specific food labeling policies, including providing accurate nutrition information labels, allergen labeling, and adhering to guidelines for health claims and nutrient content claims.
What are the new rules for food labels?
New rules for food labels in the United States, implemented in 2020, include updated nutrition facts panel requirements, which now highlight added sugars, updated serving sizes, and adjustments to daily values for nutrients.
What is the 5/20 rule on food labels?
The 5/20 rule on food labels simplifies the provision of food information. If a food item has 5% or less of a nutrient's Daily Value, it's not a significant source, but if it has 20% or more, it's considered a high source, making it easy for consumers to judge the nutrition.
What is the 80/120 rule for food labeling?
The 80/20 rule states that foods cannot contain more than 120% of the declared nutrient values or less than 80% of the actual values. This rule aims to limit the amount of macronutrients the consumer takes while ensuring sufficient nutrients are consumed.