Food Labeling Guide: Requirements & Methods for Efficient Labeling

Food Labeling Requirements and Efficient Labeling Methods

Proper food labeling helps consumers make more informed decisions about their nutrition, and is a critical factor in traceability and security for manufacturers. The food and beverage suppliers who label their products must work within government regulations for food labeling as well as any additional food labeling requirements set by major retailers to improve traceability. Meeting these increasingly stringent requirements can be costly and time-consuming for manufacturers, especially for those operating on thin margins. 

Fortunately, there are automated food labeling methods that can help suppliers more efficiently fulfill labeling requirements and help keep consumers safe. 

What is Food Labeling?

Food labeling refers to the labeling of an individual food product, such as a box of cereal or a bag of chips, or the labeling of pallets and totes containing bulk shipments of food products.

Food Labeling Requirements: Food and Drug Administration

The food and beverage industry has strict labeling requirements set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

The FDA’s food labeling guide notes that there are two ways labels can be placed on packages and containers:

  1. ​​Place all required label statements on the front label panel (the principal display panel or PDP), or,
  2. Place certain specified label statements on the PDP and other labeling on the information panel (the label panel immediately to the right of the PDP, as seen by the consumer facing the product).

The PDP is the “portion of the package label that is most likely to be seen by the consumer at the time of purchase.” The statement of identity (name of the food) and the net quantity statement (amount of product) are required here.

To the right of the PDP is the information panel, which includes:

  • the name and address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor
  • the ingredient list
  • nutrition labeling 
  • any required allergy labeling

The FDA has guidelines on the size and prominence of this label, stating that “For information panel labeling, use a print or type size that is prominent, conspicuous and easy to read.”

You can read the FDA’s food labeling guide for a full list of food labeling requirements.

Food Labeling Requirements: Retailer Requirements

In addition to government requirements, many major retailers have implemented their own food labeling requirements to improve processing and traceability. Walmart, for example, requires barcodes on the top and all four sides of the case for most food items, as well as other features such as the brand name and sub-brand for easy identification. These and other labeling requirements were put in place because incorrect labeling was making it harder for associates “to quickly find the correct products to deliver to the retail shelves”, according to Labeling & Coding News.

These retailer-specific labeling requirements add another layer of complexity for food and beverage suppliers who have a limited budget for labeling their products.

Importance of Labeling in Food and Beverage Industry

Food labeling requirements are important to the health and safety of consumers. 

On the consumer side, having clearly labeled nutrition and allergen information helps them make more informed choices about the products they buy and consume.

For manufacturers, proper food labeling is tied to traceability and security; according to Food Engineering,  “More than 60 percent of FDA recalls are due to labeling issues. Most of these errors relate to allergens. Processors inadvertently put the wrong label on products, a change in the ingredients (undeclared allergens) doesn’t show up on the label, or the label doesn’t include a complete list of allergens.”

To avoid these costly recalls, many food manufacturers are creating better supply chain visibility with technology that makes it easier and more cost-efficient to meet labeling requirements. Automatic labeling machines, for example, can be used to more quickly and consistently apply labels to products than manual processes, ensuring that barcodes are accessible and clearly visible. 

In fact, in the “Top 5 Trends in Enterprise Labeling” survey conducted by Loftware:

  • More than 63% of respondents “report they are currently combining digital technology with traditional practices to improve supply chain operations.”
  • More than 92% of respondents are working with labeling professionals to “help minimize or eliminate production stoppages, optimize supply chain operations, improve customer satisfaction and ultimately increase business.”

When confronted with more stringent labeling requirements and the improved supply chain they support, food and beverage manufacturers should consider the ways they can modernize their existing processes. Consulting with labeling experts can help find solutions that will create a modular and flexible product line for the specific compliance needs of their industry.

Food Labeling Methods

Manual processes can be time-consuming and prone to human error, leading to costly errors if labels are placed incorrectly. Introducing technology like an automatic labeling machine is one of the ways that a food and beverage manufacturer can streamline the labeling process and increase efficiency. 

These solutions can be configured to accurately place labels on a wide array of products, totes, and pallets so that labels remain easy to read and process throughout the supply chain. At Paragon Labeling, our print and apply systems are designed to print crisp, clean labels used to deliver SKU data, nutritional information, safe handling instructions, Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL), lot codes, expiration dates, Track & Trace as well as PTI compliance labels for a variety of products and packaging. 

Learn about our food industry labeling machines here.

Food Labeling FAQs

Which government agency is responsible for regulating most U.S. food labeling?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is “responsible for assuring that foods sold in the United States are safe, wholesome and properly labeled.” (source)

Where can a consumer find the FDA food labeling guide?

The FDA food labeling guide can be found at here

What is required to be on a food label?

According to the FDA Food Labeling Guide, food labels must include the statement of identity (name of food), net quantity statement (amount of product), the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor, the ingredient list, nutrition labeling, and any required allergy labeling.

When did food labeling start?

The 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was a “watershed in U.S. food policy”; according to the FDA, “The law provided for three kinds of food standards: 1) standards (definitions) of identity, 2) standards of quality, and 3) standards regulating the fill of container.” 

What foods are exempt from standard food labeling requirements?

According to the FDA Food Labeling Guide, some foods are exempt from the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) labeling requirements: “raw agricultural commodities (generally fresh fruits and vegetables)” and “highly refined oils derived from one of the eight major food allergens and any ingredient derived from such highly refined oil.”