Food Product Labeling and Packaging 101

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Food Product Labeling and Packaging 101

The FDA regulates most packaged foods sold in the United States and has specific requirements for what elements a package must contain (a Nutrition Facts panel, for example). In order to sell your food products, you must comply with the FDA’s packaging laws unless your operation is exempt (see this blog).

The regulations are a little complicated, but this blog should help offer clarity. We will cover the basics of packaging regulations, including what elements are required, where they should be placed and, when appropriate, what type-size requirements there are.

Required components

  • Statement of identity, or name of the food
  • Net quantity of contents, or amount of product
  • Nutrition Facts
  • Ingredient and allergen statement
  • Name and address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor

Defining the areas

food product packaging requirementsBefore we discuss placement, we need to understand what each area is called and where it is on the package.

PDP (Principal Display Panel)

This is the area most likely to be seen by a buyer at the time of purchase. For a rectangular container like a cereal box, the PDP area is the product of the height times the width. For a cylindrical container like a can, the PDP area is 40 percent of the product of the height times the circumference.

Information Panel

The information panel is the panel (or space, if the package is cylindrical) immediately to the right of the PDP.

What goes where

You can put all required components on the PDP or you may also use the Information Panel.

These elements must go on the PDP:

  • The statement of identity
  • The net quantity statement

These can go on the PDP or Information Panel:

  • Nutrition Facts
  • Ingredient and allergen statements
  • Name and address of manufacturer, packer, or distributor

Specifics for each Package Component

Statement of Identity

The Statement of Identity is the legal name of the food (example: Nilla Wafers), the common name of the food (example: peanut butter) or, when the other two are not appropriate, a description of the food (example: whole green peas). This is not the same as the brand name (example: Kellogg’s).

The Statement of Identity must be placed on the PDP as one of the primary art elements. The type height should be, at a minimum, half the size of the largest font on the package.

Net quantity of contents

Net quantity is simply the amount of food in the package, shown as a weight, fluid measure or number of items.

This is placed in the bottom 30 percent of the PDP in a type height determined by total PDP area, per this chart:

food product label principle display panel

Address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor

The food package must show the name of the manufacturer (or packer/distributor, accompanied by a qualifying phrase that states the firm’s relationship to the product, e.g., “manufactured for” or “distributed by”) and the full street address.

Most often, this goes on the Information Panel, but, again can appear on the PDP.

Nutrition Facts Panelfood product package nutrition facts label

In general, place the Nutrition Facts Panel on the PDP or the Information Panel, near the ingredient statement.

Use Standard Full when the available space is more than 40 sq. inches. For smaller packages, use:

  • Tabular Full when the total available space is less than 40 sq. inches
  • Linear Full when available space is 40 sq. inches or less, and the shape cannot accommodate other formats.
  • Abbreviations if the primary nutrients are present in “insignificant amounts.” (This is optional.)

The Nutrition Facts Panel must show:

  • Serving size (Consult the RACC to determine this)
  • Household measure/common household unit
  • Servings per container
  • Mandatory nutrients (total calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, total sugars, added sugars, protein, vitamin D, calcium, iron, potassium)

Ingredient Statement

You must display the ingredient statement on the same panel as the manufacturer information. The ingredients are listed in descending order of weight in a type at least 1/16” tall and easy to read.

Allergen Statement

You must declare, when present, any of the “big eight” allergens (milk, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, soybeans), either in parentheses after the name of the ingredient in the Ingredient Statement or in a statement adjacent to the Ingredient Statement.

Non-required elements

Nutrient Content Claims

A Nutrient Content Claim is any statement regarding a nutrient level in your food (examples: “low fat,” “high fiber,” “sugar-free”).

food label nutrient content claims

Regulations determine what claims are valid.

Claims can be displayed on the PDP, Information Panel or anywhere else on the package, in a type size that can’t be larger than twice the size as the font used for the Statement of Identity.

Important: If you choose to use a Nutrient Content Claim on your package, you must have a Nutrition Facts Panel showing that nutrient and its value.

Barcode

No government regulatory agency requires that your food package have a barcode. Most retail establishments, however, will. The barcode must be placed in a manner where it doesn’t interfere with the required elements.

Best before, expiration, or sell-by date

Some states require dating of some foods. You will need to check into the specific regulations for your state and food.

As far as placement on the package, the date cannot interfere with required labeling elements and must show month, day, and year immediately adjacent to an explanatory phrase (“best before,” “sell by,” etc.)


For a more extensive and printable version of this blog, download our ebook: Food Labeling 101.

For more information on the regulations, please refer to the Code of Federal Regulations. Use the drop-down menu to select Title 21 and click on 100-169 under Browse Parts.