What a Food Product Packaging Lable Needs to Include

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(Newswire.net — August 9, 2016) — There are numerous very compelling reasons why all food manufacturers have to be very clear and forthcoming about all of the ingredients contained within their product.

When you learn about Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo case for example, you soon see understand that consumers always want to know what they are buying and trust the brand to do what it says on the tin.

Here is a look at what food packaging needs to include.

No margin for error when it comes to allergens

There have been several tragic cases highlighted where people have become seriously ill or even died as a result of being exposed to an ingredient that is highly toxic to their body and was present in their food without them being made aware.

Anyone serving food in a restaurant or selling it in a packet at a grocery store, needs to be crystal clear and any allergens or potential health claims made by the manufacturer have to be listed alongside the ingredients, so that anyone intending on consuming the product can be fully aware of what they are about to eat.

The FDA Food Labeling requirements are relatively simple in this respect. Food manufacturers need to list all of their ingredients used in the order of predominance by weight, meaning that the heaviest ingredient is listed first and the lightest will be the last one listed.

If there are allergens present, they have to be listed in conjunction with the ingredients, and any health claims also have to be stated clearly, as well as ensuring that the product definitely is fat-free for example, or any other similar claim being made.

Five basic elements

You can break down the FDA requirements for food labeling into five basic elements.

Most food labels are required to include a statement of identity and the manufacturers address, together with an ingredients list, nutritional facts and the net weight of the product.

As you might expect, there are some exceptions to these basic labeling requirements. One example of this would be in respect of a single-ingredient product such as honey, where if it is pure honey, there is no need to include an ingredients list on the label.

It is a good way of consumers identifying the quality of a product provided the labeling is accurate, as any sweeteners or other ingredients added to a jar of honey for example, would have to be clearly stated, so if it says 100% pure honey, that is what it has to be.

Major food allergen

As already highlighted, there is clearly a major responsibility and duty of care imposed on all food manufacturers to ensure that major food allergens are clearly identified on their product label.

The FDA has a list of defined major food allergens, and these are mainly three distinct categories, namely tree nuts, fish and crustacean shellfish.

Tree nuts covers varieties like almonds, pecans, walnuts, and a whole host of other nuts that come under the FDA definition of tree nuts.

The FDA guidelines deem it acceptable to use a singular term such as peanut on the label, if it is believed that this will help the consumer have a better understanding of exactly what is contained in the food.

The same principles applies to other major food allergens like wheat and shellfish. There are actually many species of wheat listed by the FDA, but common sense often decrees that it is better to use a generic description that will provide consumers with a broader meaning that should help them to avoid products that contain a food group that they are allergic to.

Single ingredient foods

Although some single ingredient foods are exempt from the usual labeling requirements, this is definitely not the case when it comes to products where the single ingredient is classified as a major food allergen.

Single ingredient foods will need to comply with labeling laws if it contains protein derived from one of the major food allergens, like peanuts, tree nuts, wheat or crustacean shellfish, amongst others.

Serving size

Manufacturers do face a difficult challenge when it comes labeling nutritional facts, and that is being able to understand the serving size requirements.

It is the responsibility of food manufacturers to determine the correct recommended serving size, including making calculations to establish if the products should be labeled as a single serving or whether it should be identified as a multi-serving on their food packaging.

As you might expect, FDA labeling requirements are complex in some respects and simple common sense in other areas, but all food producers need to get their calculations and information right, if they want to ensure that every consumer clearly understands what they are about to consume.

Lewis Miles is a designer for a packaging company, a role he has been in since leaving university several years ago. He writes about design and copyright issues.