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Nutrition Facts Rounding Rules |  Use up Existing Labels?  |  Hangtags  |  Sub-ingredients for Baking Powder  |  Incomplete Data for Nutrition Facts  |  Organic Labeling

What are rounding rules for actual quantities and % Daily Values for all mandatory nutrients declared in the Nutrition Facts label, per the new 2016 regulations?  (June 2017)

Nutrients that were not changed in the 2016 Nutrition Facts label regulations follow existing rounding rules. Added Sugars follow the same rounding convention as Total Sugars, and FDA has released Draft Guidance with recommended rounding increments for Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron and Potassium.

See a quick one-pager on FDA rounding rules.

Can you use existing labels if a raw material changes? (May 2017)

There is no phase-in or grace period for labels to comply with FDA labeling requirements. That is, all ingredients must be listed in descending order of predominance in the final product's ingredient statement. If ingredients are changed, as is the case with your situation, the listing of ingredients on the product's label must reflect the exact raw materials in the formula.

Can I attach a tag to a jar of fruit spread since I do not have room for a conforming Nutrition Facts label? (April 2017)

Yes, this is possible. If a manufacturer chooses to add label space for any purpose with a hangtag then this additional space is included in the total available space for labeling. This combined space determines the minimum type size requirements for all label components including the specific Nutrition Facts format to be used. In addition, the tag must adhere to the package throughout storage and shelf life conditions.

Manufacturers are not required to include a Nutrition Facts label on a package that has less than 12 square inches of available label space (jar sides and lid) provided: 1) no nutrition claims are made on the label or in advertising and 2) no extra label space was added via hang tag or any other means. In this case, an address or phone number must be provided (e.g., "For nutrition information call 1-800-123-4567") so that consumers can obtain the nutrition information upon request.

Two of my frozen bread formulas include baking powder although my ingredient list does not include the sub-components of the baking powder (sodium bicarbonate, potassium tartrate, cornstarch). Do the sub-ingredients need to be included within the ingredient statement in the U.S.? (March 2017)

Yes, the sub-ingredients for baking powder must be included within the ingredient statement of foods sold in the U.S. Specifically, 21 CFR 101.4 requires that all ingredients be listed in descending order of predominance in the ingredient statement. You may include the sub-ingredients parenthetically after baking powder, or as separate ingredients by weight within the finished product ingredient statement.

I want to use the new Nutrition Facts format now but cannot get all the required values from my ingredient suppliers. Do ingredient suppliers have the same compliance dates for new label regulations (7/26/18)? In the interim, can I note on the label that Potassium and Vitamin D are unavailable? (February 2017)

The new nutrition label regulations pertain to manufacturers and distributors that sell food at retail. Ingredient suppliers who do not sell food at retail are not obligated to provide this information. Because partial values are not allowed within a Nutrition Facts (either original or new), you can only adopt the new format once you have values for Potassium, Vitamin D and all other required nutrients.

The reality is that ingredient suppliers will begin making this nutrition information available earlier than the compliance dates recognizing that it is necessary to satisfy their customer requirements. Compliance dates are July 26, 2018, for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales and one year later for manufacturers with less than $10 million in sales. You will want to request this information from your ingredient suppliers now if you wish to phase into the new Nutrition Facts format ahead of schedule.

Can we say "made with organic ingredients" on the front label if the product is made with 80% organic ingredients? (January 2017)

No, the general statement "made with organic ingredients" is not allowed, however "made with organic [insert up to three ingredients or ingredient categories]" is acceptable under specific conditions.

The National Organic Program has set strict production and labeling requirements for four categories of products with organic claims based on the percent of organic ingredients.
- "100% Organic" must contain only certified organic ingredients
- "Organic" must contain at least 95% certified organic ingredients
- "Made with organic [insert up to three ingredients or ingredient categories]" must contain at least 70% certified organic ingredients
- Processed products with less than 70% certified organic ingredients may identify the specific ingredients that are organically produced in the ingredient statement but may not use the term "organic" on the front of the package.

Food labelers who want to include any mention of organic on their labels should consult the National Organic Program rules to understand the full requirements.



Recycling Claims  |  Labeling Flavors  |  When is Lab Nutrition Analysis Recommended  |  When to Use "Contains 2% or Less"  |  Defining Whole Grains  |  Net Contents in Canada  |  Restaurant Menu Labeling Postponed  |  Is a U.S. Address Required on Food Labels  |  Organics Free of GMOs?  |  Use of the Term "Fresh"  |  "About" in the Serving Size?  |  "Hand-crafted" on an FDA Product

What are the allowable recycling claims that can be put on my label for a composite can made of paperboard with steel ends? (December 2016)

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a recycling claim for a food package containing multiple components is acceptable provided the package has clear instructions for consumers about which pieces are recyclable. If a package requires disassembly before recycling, it is necessary for specific directions to also appear on the label. FTC has issued documentation called "Green Guides" to assist marketers with claims about the environmental attributes of their products that are truthful and non-deceptive. See FTC's website for the most recent version of the "Green Guides".

If I'm using a natural caramel flavor for a muffin I'd like to call a "Caramel Muffin", how do I indicate on the front of the package that it's flavored and not formulated with actual caramel? (November 2016)

When natural flavor is used in a formula instead of the actual ingredient that the flavor is derived from, the product must be labeled as "naturally flavored" or "flavored" immediately adjacent to the actual ingredient. Therefore, in your example, the product must be called "caramel flavored muffin" and simply "caramel muffin" is not acceptable. This requirement applies to every location where the flavor name is listed on the package (other than the ingredient list).

"Flavored" may be in a smaller type size but not smaller than ½ the size of "Caramel" and in no instances less than 1/16th of an inch in height. When both upper and lowercase letters are used, base the type size requirement on the lowercase letter "o". This will assure that all letters are large enough.

When is lab nutrition analysis recommended? (October 2016)

FDA requires Nutrition Facts label values to be accurate within the tolerances specified in the Code of Federal Regulations, but does not require a specific method of analysis to determine the values. When performed correctly, database analysis is typically a better predictor for nutrient values as it uses the statistical average for commodity ingredients. There are, however, certain situations that may warrant lab testing.

Lab analysis is a snapshot of nutrient values for a single sample, representing a single point in time. As a result, be cautious when using lab testing to determine Nutrition Facts label values and consider multiple testing points throughout the year to capture variability in your ingredients and process.

In some instances, lab analysis is recommended:

  • Unique ingredients for which nutrition data is not available
  • Special processing that affects nutrient composition when the changes cannot be confidently predicted
  • Tool for validation of extensive nutrient content claims
  • Tool for assessing effect of shelf life on product claims (e.g., vitamin loss)

The lab analysis can then be analyzed against and incorporated into database results, creating a robust analysis of Nutrition Facts label values.

If our ingredient supplier provided us with an ingredient statement that includes "contains 2% or less of each of the following: ...", is it ok for us to simply list all of the ingredients in our ingredient statement or is the "contains 2%" phrase required? (September 2016)

The Code of Federal Regulations requires that ingredients be listed in descending order by weight in the formula unless they are present at 2% or less (and then they can be in any order following the "contains 2% or less" phrase). In your example, when a formula has an ingredient that uses the "contains 2% or less" phrase for sub-ingredients, it is not acceptable to remove the phrase unless your supplier provides you with the exact order of predominance.

If the ingredient supplier provides additional formula information, it is often possible to develop more concise, consumer-friendly ingredient statements. For example, it may be possible to remove the collective name of an ingredient and list all sub-ingredients separately within the overall ingredient statement. Also, in situations where two or more ingredients use the "contains 2% or less" phrase, it is often possible to combine some or all of these sub-ingredients into an overall "contains 2% or less" phrase for the recipe. Beware: these options often require extensive calculations and knowledge of food labeling regulations.

Does a product need to be made of 100% whole grain to be labeled as "whole grain" or does it just need to have a certain percentage? (August 2016)

FDA specifies that a product labeled "whole grain" be made from 100% whole grain ingredients. This is based on the 2006 Draft Guidance for Industry in which FDA asserts that products labeled with "100 percent whole grain" not contain grain ingredients other than those the Agency considers to be whole grains (contains all the parts of the grain, i.e., the bran, endosperm and germ). For example, bread labeled as "whole grain" or "whole wheat" can only be labeled as such when it is made entirely from whole grain flour or whole wheat flour, respectively.

As an alternative to a simple whole grain claim, manufacturers can make a factual statement about the level of whole grain in a product (e.g., 10 grams of whole grain per serving). This type of statement can be used even when less than 100% of grains in a product are whole.

What are the rules about declaring net contents in Canada? (July 2016)

Canadian food labels must express net quantity declarations in metric units of measure. Non-metric units may also be used as long as the metric is placed first and there is no intervening information between the two including marks, punctuation, parentheses or brackets.

When declaring volume it is permissible to use U.S. fl oz as long as they are clearly indicated on the packaging. Note: when calculating metric volume from U.S. fl oz, 1 U.S. fl oz = 1.041 Canadian fl oz and 1 Canadian fl oz = 29.574 mL.

I heard that FDA has postponed the requirement date for restaurant menu labeling. Is this true? (June 2016)

Yes, it was postponed and the revised compliance date for restaurant menu labeling is May 5, 2017. As part of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, FDA finalized rules that require restaurants and similar food establishments to provide nutrition information to consumers. The original compliance date was December 1, 2015. However, the omnibus appropriations bill passed through the House and Senate in December 2015 required FDA to issue final guidance on menu labeling before setting a compliance date. The final guidance was published in the Federal Register on May 5, 2016, resulting in a compliance date of May 5, 2017 - one year from the date of publication.

I have heard that you always need to have a U.S. address on your food label but I can’t find the regulation that requires this. Can you clear this up for me? (May 2016)

21 CFR 101.5 states that the manufacturer, packer or distributor name and place of business must be displayed prominently on every food label. If a product is manufactured outside the U.S., it is acceptable to label the address of its origin including the country name. However, there is also a mandate specific to dietary supplements in Section 403(y) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. 343(y)] referenced in FDA guidance that requires a U.S. domestic address or phone number for the purpose of adverse event reporting.

I would like to know the federal law requiring that organic food products be free of "any" genetically modified seed or ingredients. Is there such a law? (April 2016)

Yes, National Organic Program rules specify that genetic engineering (GE) is prohibited for products that claim Organic on food labels. In fact, USDA organic regulations require that farmers and processors show they do not use GE seeds or ingredients and they are protecting their products from cross-contact with these substances. USDA's National Organic Program certification takes extra care to ensure that production standards and manufacturing practices are followed.

Provided all aspects of the organic product and handling process are followed correctly, the product’s status is Organic – even if there is an inadvertent presence of GE material. There, however, is no tolerance level for the inadvertent presence of a GE seed or ingredient. If such material is detected, the certifying agency is responsible for working with the organic producer to identify the source and implement steps to avoid future contact.

Are there any regulations governing the use of the term "fresh" as part of a brand name, e.g., "Fresh Expressions"? (March 2016)

FDA defines the terms fresh, freshly frozen, fresh frozen and frozen fresh in the Code of Federal Regulations. "Fresh" conveys that the food is unprocessed - this means that the food is in its raw state and has not been frozen, subject to thermal processing or any other form of preservation. This applies to all label claims including the brand name.

The regulation specifically allows for the term fresh to be used on foods that contain added waxes or coatings, use approved pesticides post-harvest, are washed with a mild chlorine or acid solution, are raw foods treated with ionizing radiation, require refrigeration, or are widely recognized by consumers to be pasteurized (for example, milk). Reference: 21 CFR 101.95.

Are words like "approximately" or "about" allowed in the serving size for Nutrition Facts labeling? For example, "approx. 3 cookies" or "about 3 cookies"? (February 2016)

The term "about" or "approximately" should not be used for serving size declaration when there are discrete units in a multi-serving package. For packages with discrete units such as cookies, the weight of one cookie and the Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC) is used to determine the correct serving size.

The RACC for cookies is 30g. When the weight of one cookie is 50% or less of the 30g RACC, then the serving size is the whole number of cookies closest to 30g. For example, if one cookie weighs 11g the serving size would be "3 cookies (33g)." Reference: 21 CFR 101.9(b)(2)(i).

Is there regulation against using the phrase "hand-crafted" for an FDA packaged product? (January 2016)

"Hand-crafted" can appear on the principle display panel for an FDA-regulated food provided it accurately reflects the facts and does not mislead consumers. You will want to be sure that your processes are consistent with what hand-crafted is generally understood to mean. Note that misuse of this type of label statement is more likely to garner FTC attention because it is related to advertising and product promotion.



Statement of Identity  |  Ingredient Statement Descriptors  |  Viscous Hot Sauce  |  One Label for U.S. & Mexico?  |  Phase-in for Label Changes?  |  %DV for Protein in Canada  |  %DV for Protein in U.S.  |  Maxing Out Food Additives  |  DVs for Vitamins & Minerals  |  "Low Carb" Claims?  |  Accuracy Requirements for Supplement Facts  |  Declaring a Propylene Glycol-based Flavor

I know there are requirements for the "statement of identity" but what part of the product name counts as the "statement of identity"? I can’t find a definition for that term. (December 2015)

21 CFR 101.3 defines the identity labeling of food in packaged form. The Principle Display Panel (front of package) is required to include as one of its principle features a statement of the identity of the commodity. The statement of identity is either the name of the standardized food or an appropriately descriptive product name. Read more in a previous article from Food Label News.

I have a product that is made with hand-peeled green chiles. Is it allowable to list it as "Hand-Peeled Green Chiles" in the ingredient statement, or is only "Green Chiles" acceptable? (November 2015)

21 CFR 101.4 states that the common or usual name must be used in ingredient labeling. In this case, the common or usual name is "green chiles." Descriptions such as hand-peeled, pure, extra premium and Grade A, are not acceptable for use in ingredient statements.

You may, however, add a starburst or other graphic call out on the principle display panel that states "made with hand-peeled green chiles." This allows you to include important marketing messages and product features and still maintain a compliant ingredient statement.

I have a viscous hot sauce. Should it be labeled by weight or volume? (October 2015)

21 CFR 101.105 states that if the food is liquid, the statement shall be in terms of fluid measure; if the food is solid, semisolid, viscous, or a mixture of solid and liquid, the statement shall be in terms of weight. In general, these regulations are designed to help consumers evaluate their cost/value without confusion.

Exceptions are possible: if there is a well established custom of declaring liquid by weight, or a solid, semisolid or viscous product by volume, it may be used.

Can I create a single label for my food product that will work for distribution in both U.S. and Mexico? I know it would need to be in both English and Spanish. (September 2015)

Until recently this was allowable for some circumstances. However, several changes in Mexico's NOM-051 regulations as of August 2014 no longer make it possible to create one label that will satisfy both countries' requirements.

My supplier changed one of the ingredients we use in our product, resulting in small changes to our ingredient statement and nutrition facts. Is there any phase-in period so that we don't have to discard the packaging we have in stock? (August 2015)

There is no phase-in period for new labels, as they must accurately reflect the contents of the package. However, under certain circumstances FDA will agree to enforcement discretion on a case-by-case basis.

Very minor changes to the nutrition facts and/or ingredient statement (with no affect on allergens) may qualify for FDA enforcement discretion where the agency could allow a phase-in period for labels. You must request and get approval to this special circumstance.

To request enforcement discretion from FDA, submit name of product(s), current labels and proposed label changes, number of current labels, dollar amount of inventory, estimated time to use current inventory, and an explanation about why enforcement discretion is requested. Submit requests to Felicia Billingslea (HFS-820) at 5100 Paint Branch Parkway, College Park, MD 20740 or email to

Last month you covered % Daily Value for Protein in U.S. Are there differences for Canada? (July 2015)

Canada does not use a % Daily Value for Protein. In order to make any type of protein claim in Canada, the food must have a Protein Rating of at least 20, and varies depending upon the level of the claim.

To determine the Protein Rating you need two pieces of information: 1) Protein in a Reasonable Daily Intake and 2) Protein Efficiency Ratio.

Protein Rating = Protein in a Reasonable Daily Intake x Protein Efficiency Ratio

Reasonable Daily Intake is determined through a hierarchy of sources 1) a direct listing from Schedule K of the Food and Drug Regulations, 2) use of the Reference Amount found in Schedule M of the Food and Drug Regulations, 3) consultation with Health Canada on a case-by-case basis. Once obtained, the Reasonable Daily Intake is multiplied by the percentage of protein in the food. This part of the equation is generally relatively straightforward.

If Protein is listed at 5g on the Nutrition Facts Panel and the Daily Value (DV) for Protein is 50g, why is the %DV less than 10%? Isn’t 5g equal to 10% DV? (June 2015)

The percentages vary because calculating %DV for protein is not a simple mathematical calculation. Rather, it is the actual amount of protein per serving multiplied by the amino acid score corrected for protein digestibility, known as Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS). The resulting PDCAAS value is then divided by the 50g DV to determine the %DV for

PDCAAS uses two pieces of data, both of which vary from protein to protein:
1) Amino acid composition of the protein – A complete protein contains all of the essential amino acids required for human nutrition while an incomplete protein lacks one or more of the essential amino acids.
2) Digestibility of the protein – Values are based on published data, where highly digestible proteins have a higher value than those with lower digestibility.

Once both pieces of information are considered, the final PDCAAS value is a range from 0 to 1, where 1 is the highest quality protein. For example, milk protein and egg whites have a PDCAAS value of 1. To calculate the PDCAAS for a mixed food product, the mixed food amino acid score is multiplied by the mixed food protein digestibility value. Note: The listing of %DV for protein in Nutrition Facts is only required when protein claims are made or when the product is intended for children under 4 years of age. For products intended for children 1-4 years of age, the %DV for protein is based on PDCAAS. For products intended for infants (up to 12 months), the %DV for protein is based on a completely different methodology: Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER).

Can multiple anti-caking agents be used in combination if each individual agent is below the specified percent limit? For example, can a seasoning blend contain 1.99% silicon dioxide AND 1.99% calcium silicate (both directly added)? (May 2015)

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) defines threshold amounts for individual anti-caking agents (silicone dioxide: 21 CFR 172.480; calcium silicate: 21 CFR 172.410). The CFR does not address a combined value, however the general provisions for direct food additives (21 CFR 172.5) state that the level must "not exceed the amount reasonably required to accomplish its intended technical effect in food."

Of interest, Part 172 of the CFR references Food Additives for Direct Addition to Food for Human Consumption. Within Part 172 is Subpart E for Anticaking Agents with the specifics for calcium silicate and silicon dioxide. Part 184 of the CFR references Direct Food Substances Affirmed as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), and 21 CFR 184.1(d) states "The listing of more than one ingredient to produce the same technological effect does not authorize use of a combination of two or more ingredients to accomplish the same technological effect in any one food at a combined level greater than the highest level permitted for one of the ingredients." Because the anti-caking agents you ask about are included in Part 172 for food additives and not Part 184 for GRAS ingredients, Part 172 is most germane in answering this question. However the conservative approach would be to follow the direction in the GRAS section for food additives as well, ensuring the combined value does not exceed the highest level permitted for one of the ingredients.

Is there an official list of U.S. daily values for vitamins and minerals that you can point me to please? (April 2015)

Yes, this can be found in 21 CFR 101.9. In addition, see Quick References for a helpful one-pager that shows the differences between current and proposed regulations for U.S. Nutrition Facts Labels.

What are the regulations in the U.S. for labeling snack foods as "low carb"? (March 2015)

Despite being on the regulatory agenda nearly a decade ago, FDA has still not defined nutrient content claims for carbohydrates. Therefore, it remains not allowable to use the words "free" or "low" (or their synonyms) to describe carbohydrate levels. For example, no carbs, carb free, and low carb are unauthorized nutrient content claims and are not permissible.

"Xg carbs per serving" is allowed as a statement of fact as long as it is simply a repeat of information from the Nutrition Facts Panel and does not include qualifying language. For example, "Just 3g carbs per serving" or "Only 3g carbs per serving" implies that the level is low and is therefore not permitted.

To read earlier reports from Food Label News on this topic, enter "carb" in the search box.

Our Supplement Facts Label shows Sodium 180 mg/serving and Potassium 420 mg/serving. The actual test results are Sodium 147 mg/serving and Potassium 399 mg/serving. Do we have an issue? (February 2015)

It depends if these nutrients are naturally-occurring or added by fortification. FDA has different regulatory requirements for Class I (fortified) and Class II (naturally-occurring) nutrients.

For Class I nutrients (nutrients added for fortification), the analyzed value must be at least equal to the label value. Using your example above, if Potassium was added for fortification, your label would be non-compliant because the actual value is lower than the label value. Very likely, Sodium was not added for fortification but even if it were your actual value exceeds the label value and is therefore acceptable.

For Class II nutrients that are naturally-occurring, the analyzed value for Potassium (a positive nutrient) must be at least 80% of the label value and the analyzed value for Sodium (a negative nutrient) must not be greater than 120% of the label value. Your lab results fall into this range and would therefore be acceptable.

We are using a Propylene Glycol based flavoring in our candy. What does the ingredient statement need to say? (January 2015)

Your propylene glycol-based flavoring will either be declared as a natural flavor or an artificial flavor, based on definitions found in 21 CFR 101.22 (a)(1) and (3). If the propylene glycol functions solely as a flavor carrier, then it becomes incidental in the final food and therefore does not need to be included in the ingredient statement for your candy. If however, the propylene glycol found in the flavoring continues to function in the finished product, then it must be declared within your candy's ingredient statement.



Allowable Net Weight Variances  |  And/or Ingredient Labeling  |  Signature Line Qualifiers  |  "Margarine" in Canada  |  Net Weight for Lollipops  |  Calories on Supplier Spec Sheets  |  %DVs for Omega-3s  |  Product Naming for Juice Drinks  |  Requirement to Disclose Function of Additives  |  %DV for Nutrition Facts  |  Rounding for Nutrition Facts Servings Per Container  |  Options for Signature Line

In both U.S. and Canada, is there an acceptable upper limit variance for the declared net weight? For example, if your declared net weight is 100 grams, can your package contain 130 grams and still be compliant? (December 2014)

In both countries, the allowable variance (both plus and minus) for the net quantity of contents statement depends on the declared weight or volume. For a package with a declared net weight of 100g, the allowable variance is +/- 7.2g for U.S. and +/- 4.5g for Canada.

In the U.S., allowable net weight tolerances are established in NIST Handbook 133, Appendix A, Table 2-5. See a previous Reader Q&A for more details on U.S. tolerances for net weight statements.

In Canada, allowable net weight tolerances are detailed in Section 38 of the Consumer Packaging & Labelling Regulations, Schedule I, Part III.

While it is generally a more serious offense to underfill a package than to overfill it, a 30g overfill for a 100g package is far outside the tolerance levels that have been established.

Are manufacturers allowed to use the term "and/or" twice or more in the ingredient statement but use only one of those ingredients or a combination of any of those ingredients separated by the term "and/or"? For example, if a manufacturer lists "Calcium Caseinate and/or Milk Protein Concentrate and/or Milk Protein Isolate" in the ingredient statement of a protein shake, can they use only one of the three ingredients or any combination of ingredients to make this product? (November 2014)

FDA does not give permission to use "and/or" ingredient labeling for calcium caseinate, milk protein concentrate, or milk protein isolate. If all three are listed in the ingredient statement, all three must be present in the product.

Per 21 CFR 101.4, FDA allows "and/or" labeling for specific groups of ingredients for manufacturing flexibility: fats and oils that are not the primary ingredient, leavening agents, yeast nutrients, dough conditioners, firming agents, wax/resin and fish protein ingredients. For those ingredients that qualify for "and/or" labeling, any one or combination of the ingredients may be present in the product.

I have a question regarding the signature line: If a large corporate retailer has multiple locations that process and pack food, can the corporate address appear in the signature line of the food label in lieu of the specific location where the product was made? Would the correct verbiage be "Manufactured by" or would it change to "Manufactured for"? (October 2014)

The signature line is intended to express product responsibility. If the company manufactures, packs, or distributes a food at a place other than its principal place of business, the label may state the principal place of business instead of where the food was actually manufactured, packed, or distributed. If however, the company name and address shown on the label is not that of the manufacturer, then an accompanying phrase needs to qualify the relationship between the company and product. Examples of qualifiers include: "Manufactured for", "Distributed by", "Imported by", "Manufactured under the authority of."

When selling baked goods containing margarine in Canada, does the margarine have to meet the standard of identity under Canadian regulations? Does it matter if margarine is the product itself or if margarine is an ingredient in another product? (September 2014)

"Margarine" on a Canadian package, whether it is the product identity or included in an ingredient statement must meet the standard of identity for margarine as defined in the Canadian FDR section B.09.016.

The standard of identity for margarine requires, among other things, the addition of not less than 3,300 IU of Vitamin A and 530 IU of Vitamin D per 100 grams, and that the compound be at least 80% fat or oil. If the standard of identity is not met, the product or ingredient cannot be labeled as margarine. A non-margarine compound must be labeled with a non-standardized name such as "spread" or "vegetable oil blend."

As an additional note, if the compound added meets the standard of identity for margarine and the margarine is an ingredient in another product, then the ingredient is simply labeled "margarine" in the ingredient statement (no sub-component declaration required). However, if a non-margarine compound is used as an ingredient in another product all sub-components must be declared.

We need to determine a net weight statement for lollipops. Should net weight include the sticks and wrappers or only the net weight of the candy? (August 2014)

The net weight statement is always based on the edible portion of the food only. In your case, the net weight statement would include the candy only and not the wrappers, sticks, or other packing materials. Reference: Code of Federal Regulations 21 CFR 101.105(g).

I develop finished beverages for the U.S. market and we get nutritional information from all of our raw material suppliers. Many give calorie counts based on net carbs (defined as total carbs minus the dietary fiber). Should we enter the supplier calorie count into our Genesis nutrient analysis software or should we adjust it to include the dietary fiber and assume 4 kcal per gram for all carbohydrates? (July 2014)

Per FDA regulations at 21 CFR 101.9(c)(1), the calorie content may be determined by five different methods. Total carbohydrates minus the total value for dietary fiber is not allowable if the dietary fiber consists of both soluble and insoluble fibers.

The most accurate approach is to use an adjusted 4-4-9 calculation (one of the five approved methods). In this approach, just the insoluble fiber is subtracted from the total carbohydrate value before multiplying by 4 kcal per gram since insoluble fiber does not impact the calorie value of foods.

It is acceptable to use a simple 4-4-9 calculation however this would yield a higher calorie value if insoluble fibers are present. For more information on calorie calculations see a previous Food Label News article.

I was surprised to find %DV for Omega-3 Fatty Acid (ALA) within the Supplement Facts for flax seed and chia seed labels. It appears that the company used 1.6g as the Daily Value for ALA, although I could not find anything on the FDA website to show that a Daily Value (RDI or DRV) has been set for Omega-3s or ALA. Have I missed something from FDA? (June 2014)

You are correct, FDA has not established RDIs or DRVs for any of the Omega-3 Fatty Acids, therefore it is not compliant to show a % Daily Value within the Supplement Facts box. On April 28, 2014 (after you submitted your question), FDA issued a Final Rule prohibiting most Omega-3 Fatty Acid claims but indicated that the agency will not take enforcement action against companies using certain ALA claims based on the earlier Martek notification. In this ruling, FDA did not establish any Daily Values (DVs) for Omega-3s.

As you can see in the FDA Final Rule, the Martek notification uses 1.6g/day as a condition for making an ALA claim. However, the ruling does not specify that this 1.6g/day value can be used as an FDA-established value for calculating % Daily Value.

Of interest to food labelers and marketers, it is always permissible to include a factual statement about the quantitative amount of any nutrient, including Omega-3s, on a product label as long as it is truthful and not misleading. For dietary supplements, this quantitative amount (but not a %DV amount) can be included as a “below the bar” nutrient within the Supplement Facts Panel, but products labeled as conventional foods are not allowed to contain the Omega-3 quantitative amount anywhere within the Nutrition Facts Panel.

If a product contains either 1% juice or no juice at all, can the word "juice" be included on the label? I thought it had to contain 100% juice, yet I see several brands of kids’ drinks that don’t follow this rule. Are these labels in compliance? (May 2014)

For products that include more than 0% and less than 100% juice and include "juice" in the product name, the word "juice" must be qualified by a descriptor such as "drink," "cocktail," or "beverage" to differentiate it from 100% juice. For example: juice drink, juice cocktail, or juice beverage. A drink with 0% juice cannot include "juice" in the product name.

When does the function of an additive need to be included in the ingredient statement and what differentiates an incidental additive from an approved chemical preservative? I note that 21 CFR 101.100 states that incidental additives with no technical or functional effect are exempt from labeling, whereas 21 CFR 101.22(j) states that approved chemical preservatives "must include both the common or usual name of the preservative and the function of the preservative." (April 2014)

Ingredients added as chemical preservatives must always be declared by both name and function in the Ingredient Statement, i.e., potassium sorbate (to preserve freshness).

When a chemical preservative is present in a sub-ingredient, it could be considered incidental to the finished product if it loses its functionality as a preservative in the finished product. In this case, you are not required to declare it. If you are unsure about an ingredient's functional effect in the finished product, we advise that, "when in doubt, call it out." For other Reader Q&As on this topic, see here, here and here.

I would like to know when labeling of Daily Values is required on a label. Is it determined by the size of the container or net weight of the contents? (March 2014)

U.S. regulations require that percent Daily Values (%DV) of certain nutrients be displayed within the Nutrition Facts Panel. This is independent of the product’s net weight or size.

There are two categories of nutrients that require %DV. In each category there are nutrients that must be displayed within the Nutrition Facts Panel (Mandatory) and those that are generally optional (Voluntary).

1) Nutrients that require both quantitative amount and %DV: Mandatory nutrients include Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Total Carbohydrate and Dietary Fiber (Protein requires %DV when a protein claim is made). Voluntary nutrients includes Potassium.

2) Nutrients that require only %DV: Mandatory nutrients include Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron. Voluntary nutrients include Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Biotin, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Iodine, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Copper, Manganese, Chromium, Molybdenum and Chloride.

The CFR section 101.9(c)(8)(i) states that Servings Per Container between 2 and 5 need to be rounded to the nearest half (0.5). Some of our packages contain 3.89 servings on an unrounded basis. We initially thought that we should round to 4, but we are wondering if we should round down to 3.5 instead. I would really appreciate your input. (February 2014)

If your calculations yield an unrounded number of 3.89 Servings Per Container, then you should report the Servings Per Container as "about 4" within the Nutrition Facts Panel. Note use of the word “about” to signify a rounded number. If however your unrounded number of Servings Per Container is calculated as 3.69, then you would report the number of servings as "about 3.5" within the Nutrition Facts Panel.

On the product label, our company information has been stated as Manufactured for (Company Name), Address. Is it possible to add some phrase such as "under exclusive license" in the middle, so it will come out as: Manufactured under exclusive license for (Company Name)? (January 2014)

Yes. The Code of Federal Regulations has no restrictions for adding this type of language to the distribution information as long as it is truthful and not misleading.



Nutrition Facts Layout Options  |  Labeling Trace Ingredients  |  Are Spices Gluten-Free?  |  Abbreviations for Organic?  |  Honey as Vegan?  |  Allergen Cross-contamination  |  Net Weight Tolerance  |  Nutrition Facts Dual Declaration  |  Ingredient Minimums for Labeling  |  Nutrition Facts for Children  |  Multiple Single-serve Pouches  |  Organic Labeling for Certification Agency

Can I choose to use either a tabular/horizontal or linear Nutrition Facts panel instead of the standard panel due to space availability on a particular product? Does FDA have any terms or conditions for using this? (December 2013)

Yes. FDA allows for flexibility in presentation of the Nutrition Facts based on package size. If the standard/vertical layout does not fit and/or the package has less than 40 square inches of total space available for labeling, there is a hierarchy of options you may consider.

If the standard/vertical layout does not fit and a package is larger than 40 square inches of total space available for labeling, then your first choice is to consider the side-by-side/split layout. If this layout also does not work, then you may opt for the tabular/horizontal layout.

If a package is smaller than 40 square inches of total space available for labeling, then you may use the shortened Daily Values footnote, approved abbreviations, and/or the Not a Significant Source statement in either the vertical or horizontal orientation. Very small packages that will not accommodate either the vertical or horizontal column display may use the linear layout. See examples of Nutrition Facts Labels based on package size in Quick References.

We are using a tiny amount of tricalcium phosphate (~0.2%) in the production of one of our sugar products that we sell retail. The purpose of this ingredient is to aid in process flow. Do we need to list tricalcium phosphate on the finished product label? (November 2013)

All retail products must list all ingredients that have a technical or functional effect in the finished product. If the tricalcium phosphate aids in the flow of the finished product, then it must be declared.

There are situations where ingredients are added and need not be declared on the finished product label because they qualify as incidental additives or processing aids. See Reader Q&A May 2010 for complete definitions.

A client with celiac disease who is carefully following a gluten free diet has concerns about ingredient labeling when he sees the word "spices". Does he need to avoid foods that have "contains spices" on the ingredient label? (October 2013)

Spices are by definition gluten-free. A consumer following a gluten-free diet can feel comfortable eating food that contains spices, provided the manufacturer is reputable and has followed all FDA labeling requirements. If in doubt, a consumer can always call the company's customer service line to verify.

FDA defines spices as "any aromatic vegetable substance in the whole, broken, or ground form, except for those substances which have been traditionally regarded as foods, such as onions, garlic and celery; whose significant function in food is seasoning rather than nutritional; that is true to name; and from which no portion of any volatile oil or other flavoring principle has been removed. Spices include the spices listed in 182.10 and part 184 of this chapter, such as the following: Allspice, Anise, Basil, Bay leaves, Caraway seed, Cardamon, Celery seed, Chervil, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Cumin seed, Dill seed, Fennel seed, Fenugreek, Ginger, Horseradish, Mace, Marjoram, Mustard flour, Nutmeg, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Pepper, black; Pepper, white; Pepper, red; Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Star aniseed, Tarragon, Thyme, Turmeric. Paprika, turmeric, and saffron or other spices which are also colors, shall be declared as ‘spice and coloring’ unless declared by their common or usual name." (21 CFR 101.22)

If a spice blend contains added ingredients (for example salt or sugar, or a carrier such as wheat starch) then those ingredients must be called out separately in the ingredient list and any allergens need to fully comply with the allergen labeling requirements.

My client wants to use OG as an abbreviation for organic in the ingredient statement (for example, stating OG Cocoa Butter instead of Organic Cocoa Butter). They said someone from the confectionery field told them that this type of abbreviation was okay. Is that right? (September 2013)

No. There is no provision in the organic labeling rules to abbreviate Organic as OG. Find the National Organic Program rules here. More reader questions about organic can be found here and here.

We have developed a line of Sauces, two of which have honey in the ingredients. We want to have a Vegan call-out on our label. As I researched this online, it appears that many in the Vegan community do not consider honey to be Vegan. Can we legally make a Vegan claim if the product has honey? (August 2013)

Neither FDA nor FTC has any labeling regulations for vegetarian or vegan statements, other than being "truthful and not misleading." There is a popular understanding that honey is not allowed in a vegan diet, although this is a subjective area and may not be consistently adopted. A clarifying "contains honey" statement near the "vegan" call-out would help to ensure that the manufacturer is making truthful and not misleading statements while giving consumers the information they need to make informed decisions.

I'm using dry lentils in a product and the supplier is telling me that lentils are a rotational crop for wheat and therefore may contain wheat. Does this mean that I need to declare wheat in the Allergen Statement? Or is this an incidental additive that would not contribute any meaningful amount of gluten to the finished product? Any insight you could share would be greatly appreciated. (July 2013)

In the case you described, the possible presence of wheat is unintentional. Therefore, listing wheat is not required in either the Ingredient Statement or a separate Allergen (Contains) Statement.

You may wish to include an allergen advisory statement such as "May contain wheat" or "May contain trace amounts of wheat due to rotational crop farming practices." For further information on allergen advisory statements see a previous Reader Q&A. In addition, information can be found in the FDA’s Food Labeling Guide

I need to know what is the allowable weight tolerance for a pre-packaged food product. For example, if we are declaring a net weight of 5 oz. can we sell products with a weight lower than 5.0 oz. in the U.S.? What are the FDA regulations on net weight tolerance? (June 2013)

The FDA regulation on Net Weight is found in 21 CFR 101.105. In this regulation FDA makes allowance for reasonable variations caused by loss or gain of moisture during the course of good distribution practice or by unavoidable deviations in good manufacturing practice. FDA states that variations from the stated quantity of contents should not be unreasonably large.

While FDA does not provide a specific allowable tolerance for Net Weight, this matter could come under FTC jurisdiction. FTC has proposed regulations that would unify USDA and FDA Net Contents labeling and incorporate information found in the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) Handbook 133.

NIST Handbook 133 specifies that the average net quantity of contents in a lot must at least equal the net quantity declared on the label. Plus or minus deviation is permitted when caused by unavoidable variation in weighing and measuring that occur in good manufacturing practice. The maximum allowable variance for a package with a net weight declaration of 5 oz is 5/16 oz. Packages under-filled by more than this amount are considered non-compliant.

If we are processing raw product, can we show the cooked nutritional values on the label instead of the raw nutritionals? If this were allowed, wouldn't we need a two-column Nutrition Facts Panel as packaged and as prepared? (May 2013)

FDA requires that nutrition information shown on the package is for the product as sold. You are also allowed to include a second column to the right of the "as packaged" information that shows the "as prepared" values. This is called a dual declaration panel.

For example, if you sell dehydrated potatoes the nutrition information must be for the amount of uncooked dehydrated potatoes needed for one serving. A second column can be added to show the nutritional values when milk and butter are added to make the finished product. See graphic examples of dual declaration Nutrition Facts Labels.

What is the minimum required percentage of an ingredient that a food manufacturer must disclose when using that ingredient? (April 2013)

All ingredients that are used in a food must be disclosed in the Ingredient Statement on the label. Ingredients must be listed in descending order of predominance by weight. A statement such as "Contains 2% or less:" may be used at the end of the Ingredient Statement and ingredients thereafter do not need to be listed in order of predominance. Processing aids and incidental additives that have no functional or technical effect in the finished product are exempt from ingredient labeling. See a previous Reader Q&A for more information about incidental additives and processing aids.

When you put a serving size and the appropriate nutritional breakdown with it on a child's cereal, how do you calculate their daily nutritional needs? For example, if it's a cereal and it contains 10g of fat per serving, how can the percentage of a four-year-old's intake be the same as an eight-year-old's? (March 2013)

While FDA has special requirements for nutrition labeling of products intended for children under the age of 2, children 2 to < 4 years old, and pregnant/lactating women, there are no special labeling requirements for children 4 years old and older. The Daily Values (DVs) to use are those required for the general population.

Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs) vary with age and gender, however FDA has established a single set of Daily Values (DVs) for use in nutrition labeling on products intended for adults and children ages 4 and up. These values are based on the reference caloric intake of 2,000 calories. Reference: 21 CFR 101.9(c)

  1. Fat, 65 g
  2. Saturated Fat, 20 g
  3. Cholesterol, 300 mg
  4. Total Carbohydrate, 300 g
  5. Dietary Fiber, 25 g
  6. Sodium, 2,400 mg
  7. Potassium, 3,500 mg
  8. Protein, 50 g
  9. Vitamin A, 5,000 IU
  10. Vitamin C, 60 mg
  11. Calcium, 1,000 mg
  12. Iron, 18 mg
  13. Vitamin D, 400 IU
  14. Vitamin E, 30 IU
  15. Vitamin K, 80 mcg
  16. Thiamin, 1.5 mg
  17. Riboflavin, 1.7 mg
  18. Niacin, 20 mg
  19. Vitamin B6, 2.0 mg
  20. Folate, 400 mcg
  21. Vitamin B12, 6 mcg
  22. Biotin, 300 mcg
  23. Pantothenic acid, 10 mg
  24. Phosphorus, 1,000 mg
  25. Iodine, 150 mcg
  26. Magnesium, 400 mg
  27. Zinc, 15 mg
  28. Selenium, 70 mcg
  29. Copper, 2.0 mg
  30. Manganese, 2.0 mg
  31. Chromium, 120 mcg
  32. Molybdenum, 75 mcg
  33. Chloride, 3,400 mg

We have 54 single serving pouches each weighing 0.9 OZ that go into a carton. The nutrition facts serving size on the carton is labeled 1 pouch (26g). Which is correct for the net weight statement? (February 2013)

54 – 0.9 OZ (25.5g) Pouches, 48.6 OZ (3LB 0.6 OZ) 1.37kg
54 – 0.9 OZ (26g) Pouches, 49.5 OZ (3LB 1.5 OZ) 1.40kg

The net weight statement must be the true product net weight and not a rounded value. Therefore, the first option is correct.

Regulations for serving size in nutrition labeling and regulations for net weight labeling are different and in some cases produce different values for the same package. When the serving size in the Nutrition Facts panel is greater than 5g, the regulations require that the gram weight be rounded to the nearest whole number. However, regulations for net weight labeling require that the product weight not be overstated, and therefore cannot automatically be rounded to the nearest whole number.

If you use the USDA organic symbol on your food labels, are you required to also have a statement indicating the certifying agent? Assuming you follow the USDA National Organic Program rules, have the appropriate certification and show the organic symbol but do not have the name of the agent on the label, what are the possible consequences (i.e. penalties, not being able to import, not being able to sell, etc.)? (January 2013)

Foods labeled as "Organic" including those with the USDA Organic symbol on the package must list the name of the certifying agency with the phrase "Certified organic by (certifying agency)" on the Information Panel, immediately below the Signature Line. If you have failed to list the certifying agency on the package, you will need to work with the agency to correct that. Be aware that ignoring compliance issues could result in discontinued organic certification by your certifying agency, among other possible consequences.

Some operations are exempt from USDA organic certification, including organic farmers who sell $5,000 or less. All other operations that handle or process organic products, including blending, packaging, or labeling must be certified.

In the event a product certified as organic is missing the name of certifying agent, the agency will likely issue a non-compliance warning and the company must work out an action plan to correct the labeling error. This could include a temporary re-stickering of the information until future label reprinting can occur.

If the product is not certified organic and not exempt from certification, but is labeled as organic, the fines can be up to $11,000 per violation.



Multiple "Contains" Statements  |  Is Vitamin E Required?  |  Country of Origin Labeling  |  Disclosing Sugar Alcohols  |  Gift Pack Food Labels  |  Meal Replacements  |  Declaring Flavors  |  Are Restated Nutrition Facts Nutrient Content Claims?  |  Preservatives as "Natural"?  |  Serving Size for Uneven-sized Pieces  |  Using 4-4-9 for Calorie Calcs  |  Nature-identical Flavor in U.S.

For an already printed box, we’d like to add a stamp that says Contains Milk as the box is supposed to say Contains Milk and Wheat but currently only says Contains Wheat. We would like to put the stamp under the statement that says "made on shared equipment with products containing milk, soy, tree nuts, etc." Can we do that? (December 2012)

It is not acceptable to separate the allergen information into multiple Contains statements. However, it is permissible to use stickers to make changes in labeling as long as the sticker is firmly affixed and will adhere to the packaging under the intended storage conditions.

Please be advised that incorrect allergen labeling is a major reason for FDA warning letters and recalls so you will want to ensure that your allergen labeling is 100% compliant. One solution is to over-sticker the current allergen statement and allergen advisory statement with the corrected version: "Contains Wheat and Milk. May Contain Soy, Tree Nuts, etc."

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) requires that each of the "Big 8" allergens are clearly identified in plain English in one of two ways: 1) within the Ingredient Statement, or 2) in a separate Allergen (Contains) Statement at the end of the Ingredient Statement.

Per FDA guidance, the Allergen (Contains) Statement must contain all "Big 8" allergens present and needs to be placed immediately after or adjacent to the Ingredient Statement; it cannot be preceded or interceded by an allergen advisory statement. See questions 13, 14 and others in the guidance.

According to my reading and understanding of the FDA guidelines, Vitamin E does not need to be included in the Nutrition Facts Panel unless a claim is made about it on packaging or when it is added as a supplement. Is this correct? The FDA guidelines are so detailed! Just wanted to make sure I get it right. (November 2012)

You are correct. Vitamin E is a voluntary nutrient for U.S. Nutrition Facts labeling unless it is the basis for a claim on the label, in labeling or advertising, or is used to fortify the food.

The mandatory nutrients required to be shown within the Nutrition Facts Panel are: Calories, Calories from Fat, Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Total Carbohydrate, Dietary Fiber, Total Sugars, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron.

The voluntary nutrients are Polyunsaturated Fat*, Monounsaturated Fat*, Potassium, Soluble Fiber, Insoluble Fiber, Sugar Alcohol**, Other Carbohydrate, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Biotin, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Iodine, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Copper, Manganese, Chromium, Molybdenum, Chloride. When a voluntary nutrient is the basis for a claim or is used to fortify a food, then the nutrient becomes mandatory and must be included within the Nutrition Facts Panel.

* Polyunsaturated Fat and Monounsaturated Fat must both be included in the Nutrition Facts when one is included, and must also be included when a fatty acid or cholesterol claim is made.

** Sugar Alcohols is a required listing within the Nutrition Facts when sugar alcohols are present in a food and a sugar claim is made.

Note that nutrients or food components excluded from the mandatory and voluntary lists cannot be declared within the Nutrition Facts Panel. For example, it is not permissible to include Omega-3 Fatty Acids or Bioflavonoids within the Nutrition Facts box on a food label.

I know the following statement needs to be on an imported FDA food product - Product of "X" - but does it need to be on the Principal Display Panel or can it be anywhere on the package? (October 2012)

When a U.S. company distributes or imports a product and declares its name and address within the signature line of the product, FDA guidance says that the country of origin must appear in close proximity to the signature line in at least comparable size lettering. If, however, a foreign manufacturer is listed within the signature line, then the country of origin is part of the address and the words "Product of" can be shown after the signature line or any other conspicuous place on the label.

Please note that the country of origin statement is not a requirement of the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, therefore there is no official FDA regulation concerning its placement and use. However, the Tariff Act of 1930 does require the country of origin statement and it is codified into the U.S. Customs and Border Protection regulations under 19 CFR 134.

Contrary to FDA-regulated foods, USDA-regulated foods must show the country of origin statement directly under the product name as specified in 9 CFR 327.14.

References: FDA Food Labeling Guide (Sec. 4, No. 11) and FDA Compliance Policy Guide (Sec. 560.200).

What is the best way to disclose sugar alcohol on the ingredient statement? Can we just mention "low calorie sweeteners"? (September 2012)

Sugar alcohols, like all other low and reduced calorie sweeteners, must be declared in the ingredient statement by common or usual name (e.g., sorbitol, maltitol); it is not allowable to identify these ingredients as "low calorie sweeteners" within the ingredient statement.

Note also that two of the sugar alcohols - mannitol and sorbitol - along with polydextrose (which contains small amounts of bound sorbitol) require a label statement such as “Excess consumption may have a laxative effect” when certain threshold amounts are exceeded. See 21 CFR 172.841 regarding polydextrose, 21 CFR 180.25 for mannitol, and 21 CFR 184.1835 for sorbitol.

I'm creating a gift set to be sold wholesale. All items in the gift set are pre-packaged and labeled with the nutritional information. I need to know regulations on labeling the outer box with contents included. (August 2012)

The outer label for a gift pack sold at retail must contain all five of the required label components with one exception: the nutrition information may be included either on the outer label, inside the package, or attached to the outer package. See 21 CFR 101.9(h)(3).

Even when the nutrition information is placed inside the gift pack, the outer gift package must bear the following, which some companies choose to do via a hang tag:
– product identity (contents of the gift package using allowable product names for each component)
– a net contents declaration (contents of each component, as well as contents of the entire package)
– a listing of all ingredients contained in the package
– the signature line (name and address of the responsible party)

Is there a standard to call an FDA or USDA product a "meal replacement"? (July 2012)

Although there is no standard definition for “meal replacement”, there are four references in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations for this term:
– 21 CFR 101.12(b), Table 2: relating to Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed for milk and milk-based drinks (meal replacement is one example given)
– 21 CFR 105.66(e): relating to label terms suggesting usefulness of meal replacements as low calorie or reduced calorie foods
– 21 CFR 122.345(h): relating to folic acid fortification
– 21 CFR 172.380(c): relating to Vitamin D fortification

If a single flavor compound is added to a product for flavor, do you list it as flavor or by its common name in the ingredient statement? (June 2012)

The ingredient statement of the food to which the flavor is added may declare the flavor as “natural flavor” or “artificial flavor” as long as the flavor additive meets the applicable definition in 21 CFR 101.22.

Note that ingredients such as salt, monosodium glutamate, and protein hydrolysates must be declared by their common or usual name. Also note that, per FDA regulations, an ingredient such as dehydrated onion, dehydrated garlic, onion powder, garlic powder, or celery powder must be declared by its common or usual name (not as a “natural flavor.”) USDA, however, has guidance that allows the powdered form of onion, garlic, and celery to be labeled as a “natural flavor."

Regarding FDA and nutrient content claims, is it true that FDA sees any restatement of the Nutrition Facts on the front-of-pack as a nutrient content claim? If so, can you direct me to the ruling? (May 2012)

Yes, that is correct. If you make a statement of fact such as “0g trans fat per serving” on the front-of-pack, this is enforced as a nutrient content claim and you are required to include the disclosure statement when your product exceeds threshold levels of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

Regulations specific to your question are outlined in 21CFR101.13(c) and 21CFR101.65(a). Also of interest, FDA issued several warning letters related to this issue in February, 2010. See an April 2010 Food Label News article and our March 2009 Reader Q&A for earlier reports on this topic.

I plan on distributing a jarred tomato sauce to my friends, family and through a farmer’s market. I want to label it as “All Natural.” However, the bulk tomato sauce I buy has some preservatives added to extend the shelf life. Must I include the preservatives on my label even though I cook it for hours? (April 2012)

Yes, if preservatives are used in a product or as a sub-ingredient of another ingredient, they must be declared on the label. Therefore, if you want to have an all natural product, you will need to source a bulk tomato product that does not contain preservatives.

FDA’s policy for “natural” indicates that this claim can only be used when a product contains no added colors from any source, no artificial flavors and no preservatives. Read about the difference between natural on U.S. and Canadian regulations in the Food Label News archives (Oct/Nov 2009).

I am in a start-up candy business and plan to cut the candy bar into pieces on a tray. How exact does the weight need to be per piece given that I may cut the bar inaccurately and the nuts or chocolate may be unevenly distributed? (March 2012)

For products with a variable weight per piece such as your candy bar, pickles, shrimp, or scallops, the Serving Size used for Nutrition Facts labeling is the amount in ounces rounded to the nearest half-ounce that most closely approximates FDA's Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC), along with a visual unit of measure.

The RACC for chocolate and most other candies is 40 grams. We translate this to serving size by selecting the ounces that is the closest to 40 grams. In this case 1.5 ounces (at about 42.52 grams) is closer to the 40 gram RACC than 1 ounce (at about 28.35 grams). Putting it all together, if the Net Weight of the entire package is 6 oz (170g) and there are typically 7 to 9 pieces in the tray, then the Serving Size line on the Nutrition Facts would be written as:
     Serving Size 1.5 oz (43g/about 2 pcs)

Note: Gram weights for serving size are always expressed as whole numbers for weights over 5 grams.

A customer of ours used the 4-4-9 calculation to validate calories on our Nutrition Facts and got a different value than what we show. How do I explain the difference? (February 2012)

The 4-4-9 method is just one of five methods FDA allows for calorie labeling on Nutrition Facts. This method is the least accurate of the five because it uses "average factors" – 4 calories per gram for carbohydrate, 4 calories per gram for protein, and 9 calories per gram for fat. These "average factors" generally overstate calories because specific ingredients often contain fewer calories than the average factor would indicate. For example, dextrose (a carbohydrate) contains 3.4 calories per gram, not 4 calories per gram as the 4-4-9 method would indicate.

The five methods FDA allows for calorie determination are: (1) a 4-4-9 calculation; (2) an adjusted 4-4-9 calculation where insoluble fiber is subtracted from the carbohydrate total before multiplying by 4 (since insoluble fiber does not impact the calorie value of foods); (3) specific Atwater factors; (4) other specific food factors approved by FDA; and (5) bomb calorimetry.

Food Consulting Company uses a database nutritional analysis with Atwater or other food factors for most of the ingredients and relies on an adjusted 4-4-9 calculation for those ingredients where specific food factors are not available. Over time we have found this to result in a more accurate (and lower) calorie value than the simple 4-4-9 calculation used in most laboratory nutritional analyses.

Is the use of "natural-identical flavor" appropriate in USA? I only found guidelines in CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) for "natural flavor" or "artificial flavor." I think natural-identical flavor is mostly used as a standard for Europe. (January 2012)

You are correct. There is not a classification for "natural-identical flavors" in the U.S. The term natural-identical (or nature-identical) is used in Europe for a particular class of flavors that are synthetically produced, but chemically identical to substances found in nature. In the U.S., these synthetically-derived nature-identical flavor ingredients need to be labeled as artificial flavors.

For the FDA definition of natural and artificial flavors, see the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations at 21 CFR 101.22.



Facts Label for a Simple 3-ingredient Item  |  Serving Size for Flavoring  |  Alcohol in Foods  |  Enriched Flour in Canada  |  Farmers Markets and Internet  |  Wholesale/Foodservice Labeling  |  Vegetarian Labeling  |  Chocolate Coating  |  Allowable Variance for Nutrition Labeling  |  Sugar-Free Labeling  |  MSG Labeling  |  Combo U.S./Mexico Labels

If one is making a product consisting of three simple ingredients with no salt, sugar or preservatives added, how extensive does the nutrition statement have to be for the label on such a product? (December 2011)

It depends on the profile of the finished product per serving and whether nutrient content claims are made. If the finished product has no significant nutrients to list (i.e., all label values are zero) and no nutrition claims are made, the Nutrition Facts panel can be omitted. Spices and teas for example do not always require that the label includes the Nutrition Facts.

If the profile is such that at least 8 of the mandatory nutrients can be listed as zero, then a simplified format can be used. See Nutrition Facts examples in the simplified format.

What should a serving size be for a retail baking flavor? There are so many uses from cookies to smoothies, which would have significantly different serving sizes and nutrition information? (November 2011)

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) does not include a specific Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC) for baking flavors. FDA’s Food Labeling Guide in section L62 includes suggested RACCs for a number of product categories not included in the CFR. Products marketed as flavor substances for baking would most closely resemble flavoring oils with a suggested RACC of 1 tsp (__g).

In this scenario, it would be helpful to consumers to include a second column within the Nutrition Facts that shows nutrition information for other intended uses (such as smoothies). See an example of a dual declaration Nutrition Facts Label.

How much alcohol can be used in an FDA-regulated food product, and how is it regulated? (October 2011)

Ethyl alcohol is generally recognized as safe in foods but only for specific uses including: in the extraction process as a solvent for certain colors (21 CFR 73) and flavors (21 CFR 169), in defoaming agents for coatings (21 CFR 176.200), and as an antimicrobial agent on pizza crusts prior to final baking (21 CFR 184.1293). FDA considers flavored beverages with traces of alcohol (<0.5% by volume) from flavoring extracts or natural fermentation to be "non-alcoholic."

The Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulates the labeling of alcoholic beverages including distilled spirits, malt beverages, and wine with 7% or more alcohol by volume. Beverages such as diluted wine and cider which have an alcohol content of less than 7% by volume and are not defined in the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, are subject to the labeling requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and Fair Packaging and Labeling Act; therefore they must follow FDA labeling rules. See Compliance Policy Guide.

Is enriched flour "natural" in Canada? (September 2011)

No. Per Canadian regulations, "a natural food or ingredient of a food is not expected to contain, or to ever have contained, an added vitamin, mineral nutrient, artificial flavouring agent or food additive." For discussion on this topic including natural requirements in the EU, join us on the LinkedIn Food Label Community.

What label components must be on products that are only sold in farmers markets and on the Internet? (August 2011)

There are no special provisions for products sold at farmers markets or on the Internet. Regardless of the sales channel, all foods sold in the U.S. must be in full compliance with FDA food labeling requirements that are specified in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.

Foods sold in farmers markets and on the Internet (like every other retail food) must be labeled with the five requirements for all foods: product identity, net contents, nutrition facts, ingredients/allergens, and company name/address.

However, small businesses may be exempt from nutrition facts labeling, but the other four label components must still be displayed in the manner specified in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. See an earlier Reader Q&A for more on the small business exemption.

What label information is needed to sell products wholesale? Is the same label information necessary for selling to foodservice? (July 2011)

There are five mandatory label components required for both wholesale and foodservice items. These include:

1) product identity 2) net contents statement 3) nutrition facts (exempt on some foodservice items) 4) ingredient/allergen statement 5) name/address of the manufacturer or distributer

For wholesale items, the outer packaging (i.e., shipping containers used solely for transportation) does not require the mandatory label components, however the inner packaging does.

For foodservice items, nutrition facts may be omitted if the items will be further processed (not sold in the packaging) and do not carry nutrient content or health claims on the label or labeling. However most manufacturers of foodservice items choose to voluntarily include nutrition information because their restaurant customers are now requiring it to comply with restaurant menu labeling regulations.

What criteria must be met for a product to be labeled vegetarian? How can we label our product to alert vegetarians who do not eat dairy or egg products? (June 2011)

Neither FDA nor FTC has any labeling regulations for vegetarian statements, other than being "truthful and not misleading." The most conservative course of action is to ensure that the product is free of any animal-derived ingredient or ingredient components and use the term "vegan" when appropriate. This means that the product has no ingredients from animal origin such as milk, eggs, honey or gelatin.

Since there are different types of vegetarians, it is also possible to include a clarifying statement defining the type of vegetarian for which the product is intended to ensure that the statement is clear to the consumer and meets the "truthful and not misleading" requirement for all labels (e.g., this product is suitable to lacto-ovo vegetarians).

For our Frozen Italian Dessert, can we refer to this collection of ingredients as "chocolate coating": sugar, palm oil, cocoa powder and soy lecithin? (May 2011)

No. You would need to identify the above ingredients as “chocolate flavored coating” since the standard of identity for sweet chocolate (21CFR163.123) is not met. The key difference in your ingredients and those of standardized chocolate is the use of palm oil instead of cocoa butter.

Though it does not apply to this situation, it is worthy of noting that some chocolate food items that are flavored only with cocoa and not expected to contain the other elements of standardized chocolate (such as chocolate milk and chocolate pudding) can be called “chocolate” as outlined in the FDA Compliance Policy Guide.

The Compliance Policy Guide states “non-standardized food product that contains cocoa as the chocolate flavoring ingredient may bear the term "chocolate" so long as it can be demonstrated that consumers have long recognized that the food product may be made from cocoa and do not expect it to contain some other chocolate ingredient.”

Is there a U.S. labeling regulation that establishes the allowable variance for the analyzed value vs. what is printed on the label? If so, what is the specific regulation? (April 2011)

Yes, FDA regulations published at 21CFR101.9(g) specify two classes of nutrients; the allowable variance is different for each. Regardless of the class, the analyzed value is derived from a composite sample of twelve consumer units, with one unit coming from each of twelve different randomly chosen shipper cases.

Class I nutrients are nutrients added to fabricated foods for the purpose of fortification, such as vitamins, minerals, protein and dietary fiber. For this class, the analyzed value must be at least equal to the label value.

Class II nutrients are naturally-occurring nutrients. For this class, the analyzed value for the "beneficial nutrients" (vitamin, mineral, protein, total carbohydrate, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat or potassium) must be at least 80% of the label value and the analyzed value for the "nutrients to limit" (calories, sugars, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol or sodium) must not be greater than 120% of the label value. These allowable variances are commonly referred to as the "80/120 rule."

I am working on a Canadian label with a sugar-free claim. The product has less than 0.4g sugar and 2g carbohydrate. Does this product qualify for the claim? (March 2011)

In Canada, only products that are both sugar-free (less than 0.5g sugar per serving) and calorie-free (less than 5 calories per serving) qualify for a "sugar-free" claim.

Though the calorie content of the product wasn't included with your question, using the standard factor of 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate, your product likely contains at least 8 calories per serving. Therefore, a sugar-free claim would not be permitted on this product in Canada.

In the U.S., a product qualifies as sugar-free if it has less than 0.5g sugar per serving and per Reference Amount for the product category. The claim can be made on the product label providing two conditions are met: (1) the calorie profile is also disclosed on the label (either low calorie, reduced calorie or not a low calorie food), and (2) the product does not include an ingredient that is a sugar or is generally understood by consumers to contain sugars unless that ingredient appears with an asterisk linked to a statement such as "adds a trivial amount of sugar" below the ingredient statement.

I work for the Anchorage school district for student nutrition and we have students that have an allergy to MSG. I need to know if it is used in CN-labeled foods? (February 2011)

Whenever MSG (monosodium glutamate) is added to a food, it must be declared in the ingredient statement. This is true for foods labeled for the Child Nutrition (CN) program or any other foods. There are some ingredients, however, that contain naturally occurring monosodium glutamate. This naturally occurring substance is the result of a free glutamate that combines with sodium in processing to create monosodium glutamate. Some ingredients that contain free glutamate are: yeast extract, autolyzed yeast extract, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, and hydrolyzed vegetable proteins.

Our sales team wants to create a food package that would be equally acceptable in Mexico and the U.S. Is this do-able? (January 2011)

We consulted with Mexican colleagues who confirmed that yes, it is possible to have a single food label that satisfies the requirements of both U.S. and Mexico. Of course, the label must be bilingual.

Mexico has new food labeling regulations, known as NOM-051, that went into effect on January 1, 2011. There are several new requirements including a calculation for the Mexican Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) when different from the U.S. Daily Value (DV) and a quantitative ingredient declaration for any ingredients that are highlighted on the label. A U.S. bilingual label can be used as long as the additional mandatory information for Mexico is also included.



Fruit/Vegetable Servings  |  "2% or less" Ingredient Statements for Canada  |  Declaring Ascorbic Acid  |  Labeling for "Gluten-Free"  |  Insoluble Fiber and Calories  |  "Natural" or Not?  |  Database vs. Lab Analysis  |  Ingredient Exemptions  |  Inner and Outer Labeling  |  Labeling for Recycling  |  Lecithin as an Allergen  |  Allergen Advisory Statements

When a product like Fruitabu or V8 vegetable juice says "contains a serving of fruit" or "contains a serving of vegetables" what does that mean? What methodology are they using, because when you look at the NLEA serving sizes or the USDA serving size for a fruit or vegetable, the calories, total sugar and fiber are inconsistent with how the product is labeled? (December 2010)

FDA does not define serving sizes for food groups (i.e., fruits, vegetables, grains). FDA’s Reference Amounts (the NLEA serving sizes) are the amounts customarily consumed; they are defined for 135 product categories (i.e., breads, crackers, puffed cereals, high fiber cereals). These Reference Amounts do not necessarily correlate with serving sizes for food groups. Serving sizes for food groups vary depending upon which food group system you use: diet exchanges, Child Nutrition program information, USDA's MyPyramid information for a 2,000 calorie diet, or the NLEA serving sizes.

The number of servings for a particular food group can be listed on the label as long as it is truthful and not misleading. The method used to calculate or determine the number of food group servings needs to be listed or referenced by a symbol near the statement of the number of servings. For example:


†Each 8 fl oz glass provides ½ cup of fruit. USDA's MyPyramid recommends a daily intake of 2 cups of fruit for a 2,000 calorie diet.

NOTE: MyPyramid was the USDA food guidance system when this answer was published in December 2010. It has since been replaced with MyPlate. However, the concepts discussed above remain relevant.

Can my product (an aseptically shelf stable ready-to-eat pudding) that is made in the U.S. and labeled for sale in Canada state "2% or 1% or less" in the ingredient statement? (November 2010)

Canadian regulations make no mention of an "X% or less" clause for ingredient statements. In the U.S., the clause "2% or less of the following" (or 1.5%, 1%, or 0.5%, as appropriate) can be used at the end of the ingredient statement to list minor ingredients in any order. Canadian regulations specify that ONLY specific classes of ingredients can be shown at the end of the ingredient statement in any order. For these specific classes of ingredients in Canada, the "X% or less of the following" clause could be used, but it is not common practice because it significantly lengthens the ingredient statement given the English-French bilingual labeling requirement.

In Canada, the specific classes of ingredients that can be shown in any order at the end of the ingredient statement include: spices, seasonings and herbs (except salt), natural and artificial flavors, flavor enhancers, food additives, and vitamin and mineral nutrients and their derivatives or salts.

For more information about Canadian ingredient labeling, consult the Canadian Food & Drug Regulations (FDR), Section B.01.008. For information about U.S. ingredient labeling, consult the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 21, Part 101.4.

How many milligrams of Vitamin C can I add to my beverage without having to declare "ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)" under the beverage's ingredient listing? (October 2010)

If ascorbic acid is added to the beverage, it must be listed in the ingredient statement. Furthermore, if the function of the ascorbic acid is as a preservative, this must also be disclosed in the ingredient statement (i.e. "ascorbic acid to preserve freshness" or something equally descriptive).

According to the Code of Federal Regulations at 21 CFR 101.4, all food ingredients (except incidental additives as defined in 21 CFR 101.100) must be listed in descending order of predominance by weight. Rules for declaring spices, flavorings, colors and preservatives can be found in 21 CFR 101.22.

Could you give me the current status on labeling for gluten-free products. What are the rules? (September 2010)

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) mandated that FDA establish a definition for the term "gluten-free" and uniform conditions for its use in the labeling of foods. FDA has published a proposed rule for "gluten-free".

In this proposed rule, the use of the term "gluten-free" is voluntary. However, it will not be allowed for foods that contain any species of the following prohibited grains: wheat, rye, barley or a crossbred hybrid of these grains. Furthermore, a "gluten-free" claim will not be allowed if the food contains 20ppm or more gluten. If the food is inherently free of gluten, the claim must acknowledge that all foods of that same type are gluten-free (i.e., "all milk is gluten-free" or "milk, a gluten-free food").

Our ingredient supplier insists that insoluble fiber does not need to be included in total calories, however this would not make sense in context of the 4-4-9 formula. Is it allowable to have insoluble fiber listed as part of carbohydrates on the Nutritional Facts Panel but not included in the calorie consideration? (August 2010)

In the U.S., your ingredient supplier's approach is allowed according to FDA regulations. In Canada however, this approach is not allowed.

For the U.S., FDA allows several different methods for calorie determination [21 CFR101.9(c)(1)(i)]] such as general factors or specific Atwater factors. Most companies use the general factors 4-4-9 (4 calories per gram for carbohydrates and protein and 9 calories per gram for fat). It is allowable but not required to subtract insoluble fiber from the total carbohydrate value for the purpose of calculating calories. Insoluble fiber must be included in the Nutrition Facts Panel if any claims about insoluble fiber are made -- otherwise it is a voluntary nutrient. If insoluble fiber is shown, companies can choose whether or not they subtract the calories from this type of carbohydrate. To list the fewest number of calories and to avoid confusing consumers, you can subtract the insoluble fiber from the carbohydrates before applying the 4-4-9 formula but then you would not want to include the optional 4-4-9 footnote on the Nutrition Facts Panel.

For Canada, it is unacceptable to subtract the weight of dietary fiber from the weight of carbohydrate prior to applying the 4-4-9 formula when calories for the specific fiber source have not been determined. To date, Health Canada has only approved reduced calorie levels for wheat bran (0.6 calories per gram) and specific inulin sources (2.2 calories per gram).

I am using all natural ingredients in a package. It says it has vanillin in it. I think vanillin is a compound, so does that mean I cannot say "all natural ingredients"? (July 2010)

Vanillin is typically a synthetically-derived compound (artificial flavor). FDA does not allow a "natural" claim for products that contain artificial flavors, added colors (from any source) or chemical preservatives. See June 2008 Food Label News for further discussion about "natural" claims on FDA, USDA and CFIA-regulated products.

Which is better for getting the most accurate results: lab or database analysis? (June 2010)

FDA does not require a specific method of analysis for Nutrition Facts, but the Agency does require label values to be accurate within the tolerances specified in the Code of Federal Regulations.

When performed correctly, the database method is typically a better predictor of the nutritional analysis from multiple production runs than a single laboratory analysis. This is because the database method uses the statistical average for commodity products that can vary with growing conditions and other factors. FDA actually encourages the use of nutrient databases as a low-cost alternative to laboratory analysis. In fact nearly all Food Consulting Company clients choose this approach; exceptions are for products that contain ingredients for which nutrient data is not available or for foods that undergo processing where the nutrient changes cannot be confidently predicted.

When you select database analysis you will provide your product formulations, raw material specifications, and processing information to us under strict confidentiality. We will analyze your product to determine the 100-gram data.

In both cases we use the findings of the analysis to develop the Nutrition Facts panel for your product. As part of this work we determine the FDA-regulated serving size and servings per container, then calculate the nutrient profile per serving, apply the rounding rules, and determine percent daily values for the required Nutrition Facts panel components. Finally we produce a camera-ready Nutrition Facts panel formatted according to your package dimensions and FDA specifications. This is what you provide to your printer, artist, or package designer.

Can you reference me to the section of the CFR that deals with synthetic and/or artificial substances that are exempt in trace amounts as food processing aids? Also include information on secondary synthetics (synthetic and/or artificial substances that are exempt due to being ingredients in ingredients)? (May 2010)

Ingredient exemption information can be found in 21 CFR 101.100 - Food; exemptions from labeling. Under this provision of the Code of Federal Regulations, incidental additives present in a food at insignificant levels with no technical or functional effect in that food are not required to be listed in the ingredient statement.

Incidental additives are:
- ingredients that are incorporated in the food as an ingredient of another food
- processing aids which are added during processing but removed, converted to a normal constituent of the food at normal levels or are present at insignificant levels
- substances migrating from equipment or packaging

Insignificant level means there is no technical or functional effect at the level used.

Incidental additives should always be listed in the ingredient statement when they are allergens (i.e. soy lecithin as a lubricant on equipment), when they are sulphiting agents at detectable levels (greater than 10ppm), or when the manufacturer is uncertain if the additive is functional in the finished product (for example, a preservative could be functional when incorporated as an ingredient of another food).

We have four different flavors of a beverage packaged in a box. Do we need four different nutritional statements on the box or can we just put the nutrition info on each bottle instead? (April 2010)

The regulations specify that labeling must be placed on the retail sales package. This enables the consumer to be informed when they make their purchasing decision. For a multi-pack, the labeling needs to be on the outer package unless there is a transparent wrapper that joins the individual packages together so that the labeling can be seen on the individual packages at the point of purchase.

The labeling can also be on both the outer and individual packages. If the labeling is on the outer package only, then the individual packages must include a phrase to indicate that they are not labeled for individual retail sale. This is true for both U.S. and Canada.

What does FDA require regarding redemption value labeling for beverage containers? (March 2010)

FDA does not regulate this aspect of beverage labeling. Rather, it is regulated by the individual states. The requirements vary depending on type of container (plastic, glass, aluminum, etc.), contents of the container (carbonated, non-carbonated, juice, etc.) and if the container is marketed as single or multi-serving. The Container Recycling Institute maintains a website at that outlines the various requirements for U.S., Canada and worldwide.

If lecithin is present, does soy need to be claimed as an allergen? (February 2010)

Yes, for FDA regulated foods, if lecithin is derived from soy then soy needs to be listed in plain, common English within the ingredient statement. In addition, soy would also be included if you are using a separate "Contains" allergen statement.

In FDA Guidance Specific to Soy Lecithin, FDA specifies that if lecithin is derived from soy then the plant source of the ingredient (soy) must be included in the ingredient name within the ingredient statement. Additionally, if you are using a separate "Contains" allergen statement, soy must be included with all of the "big eight" allergens (eggs, milk, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, crustacean shellfish) present in the product.

For additional information read June 2006 Food Label News report about allergen labeling for incidental additives.

NOTE: FDA withdrew the above guidance document on February 22, 2013, because the exercise of enforcement discretion stated in the policy no longer reflects the agency's current thinking. FDA believes that companies have had ample time to comply with the requirement and that enforcement discretion is no longer applicable.

When we designed our bags for popcorn, we naturally used the label warning from our contract manufacturer "Manufactured in a facility that also processes peanuts, tree nuts and milk ingredients." Our contract manufacturer is no longer using nuts in their products and we are thinking about eliminating the peanut warning. However, to do this economically and not create a whole new printing plate, we would also need to eliminate the warning about milk being processed in the factory. Is it OK to eliminate the milk warning or does that violate a code or present a serious risk to those with milk allergies? (January 2010)

The use of an allergen advisory statement such as the one you use "Manufactured in a facility that also processes peanuts, tree nuts and milk ingredients" is voluntary so you are free to eliminate the statement or any other allergen advisory statement from your labeling if you choose.

For more information on allergen labeling, see FDA's Guidance for Industry regarding food allergens or a Food Consulting Company article that helped companies prepare for allergen labeling when the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act went into effect on January 1, 2006.



Labeling for Foodservice  |  Agave Syrup as Natural Low Glycemic Sweetener  |  Enzymes in Dough Conditioners  |  Product Info Needed  |  Supermarket Take-aways  |  Stevia in Foods  |  Net Contents  |  Daily Value for Sodium  |  Shelf Life Testing  |  Is "0g trans fat" allowed?  |  Disclosure for Cholesterol  |  Definition for High Protein

If you sell foodservice products to restaurants by the case, are you required to label each 'package', 'packet' or 'bottle' in the case? (December 2009)

No, you are not required to label the individual units within the case. The required labeling for foodservice items (product identity, net quantity of contents, ingredient statement, and signature line) can be on either the individual units or on the shipping container; it does not have to be in both places.

Foodservice items are exempt from nutrition facts labeling, except when a nutrient content claim is made. If a company elects to label individual units and uses the exemption for Nutrition Facts labeling, then it is wise to include a label statement such as "not labeled for individual retail sale."

Can we label our agave syrup as a natural low glycemic sweetener in the U.S.? (November 2009)

This question has two parts: "natural" and "low glycemic." As outlined in last month's Food Label News, FDA does not restrict the term "natural" on food labels provided the product is free of artificial flavors, chemical preservatives, or added colors (from any source). FDA has not defined the term "glycemic." If you use the word "low" with "glycemic," you must have authoritative basis for the claim and include the reference on your label to ensure that the label is truthful and not misleading.

Rather than labeling a product as "low glycemic," we suggest using a statement such as Agave Syrup: glycemic index = X, compared to Granulated Sugar: glycemic index = Y. This is a statement of fact (provided you have research documentation to substantiate your values) and provides the consumer with comparison data without using the descriptive phrase "low."

Can enzymes used in dough conditioners in a bakery product be declared by a class name "enzymes" or must they be declared by the actual name of the enzymes in the Ingredient List? (October 2009)

The enzymes used in dough conditioners need to be listed in the ingredient statement by "common or usual name" (actual name of the enzyme). This is true for both U.S. and Canada.

I have a new product and need help with food labels. Do I need to send a sample of my product to you? What information will you need from me? (September 2009)

Food Consulting Company uses database analysis of a product’s recipe formulation so a sample is not needed. Database analysis is a lower cost alternative to laboratory analysis and is an excellent predictor of a product’s nutritional content.

To produce the nutritional information for your product, Food Consulting Company needs information about your recipe formulation, processing and packaging. The regulatory specialist who will be working on your project can help you determine the specific information you will need for your recipe formulation, your processing and your packaging.

Will either the LEAN Act or the MEAL Act affect supermarket foodservice operations? (August 2009)

LEAN Act and MEAL Act are separate bills introduced to the U.S. Congress that would require mandatory nutrition disclosure in certain restaurant/retail food service establishments. In June 2009, the bills were subject to compromise in the U.S. Senate and the compromise is to be a component of health reform legislation currently being debated.

Very little detail about the compromise was made public and so the answer to the original question is not known. It might be helpful though to consider how FDA has defined the term "restaurants" per FDA's Restaurant Labeling Guide:

  • The term "restaurant" applies broadly to establishments where food is served or sold for immediate, on-site consumption (e.g., institutional food service establishments such as schools, hospitals, and cafeterias; transportation carriers such as trains and airplanes; delicatessens and catering operations with facilities for immediate consumption on the premises).
  • The definition of "restaurant" extends to establishments where foods are generally consumed immediately where purchased or while walking away (e.g., lunch wagons, cookie counters in a mall, vending machines, and similar foods sold from convenience stores); and food delivery systems or establishments where ready-to-eat foods are delivered to homes or offices for immediate consumption.

I heard that stevia can now be used in conventional foods (and not just dietary supplements). If true, are there special considerations I need to be aware of for labeling? (July 2009)

Only rebaudioside A (RebA), an isolated component of the stevia plant is allowed by FDA for use in conventional foods. In December 2008, FDA responded to notices from Whole Earth Sweetener Company LLC and Cargill Incorporated requesting GRAS status for rebaudioside A purified from Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) Bertoni. In both responses (1,2) FDA stated that the agency has no questions at this time regarding the conclusions that rebaudioside A is GRAS under the intended conditions of use.

The ingredient statement needs to indicate the presence of the purified form "RebA" - "stevia" is not appropriate labeling nomenclature for this ingredient.

My products are syrups and fruit toppings; what determines if the label should use 'fluid ounces' or 'net weight' to declare net quantity of contents? (June 2009)

The Code of Federal Regulations says that the 'net quantity of contents' statement is to be expressed in terms of fluid measure, weight, numerical count, or a combination of numerical count and weight or fluid measure. The statement is to be in terms of fluid measure if the food is liquid, or in terms of weight if the food is solid, semisolid or viscous, or a mixture of solid and liquid. If syrups are pourable and do not contain solid pieces of anything the net quantity statement will be in terms of fluid measure as in the U.S. gallon of 231 cubic inches and quart, pint, and fluid ounce subdivisions as appropriate for the product container. If the fruit toppings are a mixture of syrup and pieces of fruit the net quantity statement will be by weight in terms of pound and ounce.

Exception to the above regulations is possible; if there is a firmly established general consumer usage and trade custom of declaring the contents of a liquid by weight, or a solid, semisolid or viscous product by fluid measure, it may be used. In all cases 'net quantity of contents' statement must facilitate value comparisons by consumers and must not cause consumer confusion.

In addition to stating the U.S. Customary System terms (ounces, pounds and fluid ounces), food labels must show the net contents in Metric System terms (grams, kilograms, milliliters and liters).

FDA's Food Labeling Guide gives more information about net quantity of contents.

What is the 2400 milligram Daily Value for sodium based on? (May 2009)

The Institute of Medicine's most recent (2004) Recommended Dietary Intake for sodium established 1.5g per day as the Adequate Intake (AI) and 2.3g per day as the Upper Limit (UL).

The Recommended Dietary Allowances, Tenth Edition (1989) recommended that daily intakes of sodium chloride be limited to 6g (2.4g of sodium) or less. This 2.4g recommendation correlates with the 2400 mg Daily Value for sodium established for nutrition facts panels that became mandatory on food labels in 1993.

Does your company offer shelf life testing? (April 2009)

Yes, Food Consulting Company offers a Shelf Life Evaluation service. A food technologist determines shelf life by testing a product sample for pH, water activity, moisture, solids, and other components; the findings are used along with specifics about the product ingredients, processing methods, and packaging to determine the product shelf life.

Although labeling regulations do not include a requirement for shelf life, voluntary inclusion of a freshness date (Best Before or Use By) on labels encourages retailers to rotate products and lets consumers know when the time is up for highest product quality.

I have seen products with a Nutrient Content Claim (NCC) stating "0 grams trans fat." I have not found this claim to be one of the approved NCC claims. Is the claim illegal or allowed? (March 2009)

"0 grams trans fat per serving" is a factual statement, not a defined nutrient content claim. Factual statements have always been allowed on labels provided the information is truthful and not misleading. "0 grams trans fat per serving” is truthful as long as the food contains less than 0.5 gram (1/2 g) of trans fat per serving. "0 grams trans fat" without qualification (i.e., "per serving") is an incomplete factual statement and should not be used on labels, unless the product is in a single-serve container.

While "0 grams trans fat per serving" can be used on labels, "trans fat free" cannot be used. Per FDA regulations the term "free" is a nutrient content descriptor. The regulations regarding the use of nutrient content claims are specific; they are intended to ensure that the descriptive terms that characterize or compare nutrient levels are used consistently for all types of food products and are thus meaningful to consumers. Nutrient content claim descriptors apply only to nutrients or dietary substances that have an established daily value; no daily value has been established for trans fat.

In addition to "free," the existing regulations disallow claims about trans fat using the following terms: Free, Zero, No, Without, Trivial Source of, Negligible Source of, Dietarily Insignificant Source of, Low, Little, Few, Contains a Small Amount of, Low Source of, Reduced/Less, Lower, Fewer, and any synonyms of these words.

Note: If a statement of fact related to a nutrient is made outside the Nutrition Facts panel for a product that exceeds threshold levels of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, then the disclosure statement "See Nutrition Information for [name of nutrient] Content" is required.

I've heard that you can't make a low-sodium claim on a product that contains cholesterol. Is this true? (February 2009)

A low-sodium claim can be made on a product that contains cholesterol, but depending on the amount of cholesterol you might have to include a disclosure statement.

A disclosure statement is required for nutrient content claims (e.g., low sodium, fat free, sugar free) if certain other nutrients exceed set thresholds. The nutrients and thresholds are: 13.0g fat, 4.0g sat fat, 60mg cholesterol, 480mg sodium. These values are for Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC) per labeled serving. The rules for foods with small serving sizes and main dish/meal products are different.

A disclosure statement calls consumers' attention to one or more nutrients in the food that may increase the risk of a disease or health-related condition that is diet related.

The disclosure statement identifies the nutrient that is present above the prescribed level, e.g. "See nutrition information for cholesterol content." This statement must be placed immediately adjacent to the claim in boldface type and a type size at least as large as the net quantity of contents declaration.

Is there a regulated definition for high protein, as a percentage of protein in a serving? (January 2009)

Yes. Per the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA), "high protein" is a regulated nutrient content claim and the word "high" means greater than or equal to 20% Daily Value (DV). The Daily Value for protein is 50 grams. Therefore, a food that contains 10 grams of protein (or more) per serving, can be described as high protein.

If a high protein claim is made, the %DV for protein must be stated within the Nutrition Facts. The %DV must be calculated based on the corrected amount of protein per serving (also known as protein digestibility corrected amino acid score, or PDCAAS). This is the actual amount of protein per serving multiplied by the amino acid score corrected for protein digestibility.

Any time a nutrient content claim is made, a disclosure statement is required if certain other nutrients exceed set thresholds; the nutrients and thresholds are: 13.0g fat, 4.0g sat fat, 60mg cholesterol, 480mg sodium.



USDA or FDA?  |  Uniform Compliance Date  |  Labeling Fish as Organic  |  Getting Ingredient Data  |  U.S. & HFCS  |  Canada & HFCS  |  St. John's Wort in Beverages  |  Butter as an Ingredient  |  Composite Ingredient Statements  |  Nut & Soybean Oils  |  Release Agents  |  Rounding Rules

I am launching a line of side dishes and some will contain bacon. Are they covered by USDA or FDA labeling rules? (December 2008)

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of USDA has authority over meat and poultry products and processed egg products. FDA has authority over all other foods.

When meat or poultry is part of a mixed dish product (e.g., pepperoni pizza, chicken noodle soup, side dish with bacon), the product might fall under FDA rather than USDA regulations. Where it falls depends on the formulation.

In general, mixed food products with more than 2% cooked meat or poultry (3% raw) are regulated by USDA; products with 2% or less cooked meat or poultry (3% or less raw) are regulated by FDA. To determine which labeling regulations apply to the side dish with bacon, consider the weight of bacon in the formulation.

I would like to know how many new labeling regulations will be in effect on the January 1, 2010, uniform compliance date? (November 2008)

FDA established January 1, 2010, as the uniform compliance date for food labeling regulations that are issued between January 1, 2007, and December 31, 2008. FDA sets uniform compliance dates to minimize the economic impact of labeling regulation changes.

FDA does not publish a summary list of updated/new regulations due on a uniform compliance date. This means labelers are themselves responsible for staying informed on all labeling regulations activity. Food Label News reports on updated and new regulations as they are proposed, opened for comment, and as they are made final. Food Consulting Company offers services to help labelers meet compliance dates as economically as possible.

Labelers also have the option of reading the daily Federal Register and making frequent visits to FDA's website since all regulation changes are announced in both locations accessible through the Internet.

Since fish/aquaculture are excluded from National Organic Program standards, is labeling fish and seafood with the term "organic" acceptable in the U.S.? (October 2008)

An official from USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) told Food Consulting Company that USDA has no jurisdiction over how organic is used outside of the rules of the National Organic Program (NOP). Current NOP rules say that aquatic animals shall not be included in the program and therefore NOP has no restriction on using the term "organic" on a fish label at the present time as long as the USDA Organic seal is not used.

Fish is an FDA-regulated food product and FDA requires that all labeling is truthful and does not mislead the consumer. Therefore the food labeler needs to decide if the organic claim on a fish product meets consumer expectation for organic.

In the August Q&A you said high fructose corn syrup should be labeled as glucose-fructose syrup in Canada. Can I also label it as glucose-fructose syrup on my U.S. labels for the same product? (September 2008)

No, the required nomenclature for this ingredient for U.S. regulated food labels is high fructose corn syrup. Reference Code of Federal Regulations in Title 21, Section 184.1866.

I've heard that Canada does not allow high fructose corn syrup in food products. Is this true? (August 2008)

Canadian food regulations do not prohibit the use of high fructose corn syrup. However Canadian regulations differ from U.S. regulations regarding nomenclature for this ingredient.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency "Guide to Labelling and Advertising – Basic Labelling Requirements" specifies that the ingredient equivalent to high fructose corn syrup is to be listed as "glucose-fructose" on Canadian food labels.

Food labelers using high fructose corn syrup/glucose-fructose as an ingredient may find Food Label News archived articles from June 2008 helpful.

I frequently get incomplete nutrition information from ingredient suppliers and my nutrient analysis program only helps part of the time. How can I get complete information? (July 2008)

When complete and accurate nutrition information is not provided by ingredient suppliers or readily available from a particular database, accurate values must be obtained through a process of due diligence.

Food Consulting Company has posted an article on the due diligence process. The content was presented by Karen C. Duester, MS, RD, company president, to the nutrition study group meeting of the National Restaurant Association in May 2007 and included in a 2007 article published in DBC Dimensions. Find the due diligence article in Quick References.

Is St John's wort allowed in a beverage at any level? (June 2008)

No, this botanical is not allowed for use as an ingredient in a beverage; this is explained in a January 30, 2001, "Dear Manufacturer" letter.

In the letter, FDA explains that in order for a substance, such as the botanical St John's wort, to be added to food, the substance must be GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) or be an approved food additive. Food additives require pre-market approval by FDA; data demonstrating safety is submitted by the petitioner to the agency in a food additive petition. If the petition is accepted, the agency issues food additive regulations. The regulations specify the conditions under which the additive has been demonstrated to be safe and how it may lawfully be used.

St John's wort is not a GRAS substance or an approved food additive.

I see butter listed on ingredient statements alone sometimes and sometimes followed by a parenthesis around the butter ingredients e.g., (cream, salt). How should I list butter in my ingredient statement? (May 2008)

If the formula includes unsalted butter, it is correct to simply list "butter" (or specify as "unsalted butter") in the ingredient statement in descending order according to total weight compared to other ingredients. However if the formula includes salted butter, the salt in the butter must be factored into the ingredient statement in one of two ways.

The most concise way to accurately list the salt in salted butter is to determine the salt weight vs. cream weight and then add the salt weight to the salt contributed from other ingredients. The "butter" and "salt" from all sources will then be listed in correct order according to their weights compared to other ingredients.

The other option for listing salted butter (a composite ingredient) is to list the butter in descending order by weight followed by a parenthetical listing of the sub-ingredients, e.g., "butter (cream, salt)."

For a product that contains multi-component ingredients (e.g., cherry pie contains fruit filling and crust, both with sub-ingredients), does FDA require that the ingredient statement show each ingredient with sub-ingredients in parentheses, or is it ok to list the subcomponents one time in order by total weight in the whole product? (April 2008)

FDA regulations allow a product that contains multi-component ingredients to use either a "composite" ingredient statement or an "expanded" (parenthetical) statement. Which type to use depends on the goal for final label appearance and on the availability of the formula breakdown for multi-component ingredients.

The "composite" ingredient statement is generally a cleaner, more concise ingredient statement that helps present a product in the best possible light within the law. This type of statement identifies each ingredient one time, in descending order based on each ingredient’s total weight in the whole product.

Ingredient suppliers usually do not provide exact formula breakdowns for multi-component ingredients, but may provide a range, e.g., 60% to 70% sugar. The ingredient statement developer must then be able to use the percent range information given to create a truthful ingredient statement. This requires skill in understanding FDA ingredient labeling regulations and in applying the information provided by suppliers of multi-component ingredients.

Unless a client requests otherwise, Food Consulting Company normally prepares a composite ingredient statement. The exception is when a labeling client (or their supplier) is not able to provide adequate information for multi-component ingredients.

Do nut oils and soybean oil have to be declared as allergens on food labels? (March 2008)

FDA food labeling regulations require that the source of the oil is identified (soybean oil, peanut oil, walnut oil, etc.) in the ingredient statement. Per FDA guidance related to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA), if a "Contains" statement is used after the ingredient statement, then all of the "big eight" allergens contained in the product need to be in this statement - tree nut and legume (soy or peanut) oils are no exception unless the oil is highly refined and therefore free of the allergenic protein.

For background, FALCPA exempts highly refined oils and ingredients derived from highly refined oils from allergen labeling. FDA does not have a regulatory definition for highly refined oil, however the Agency refers to the Senate Report that accompanied FALCPA that describes a highly refined oil as one that is refined, bleached and deodorized.

If a company is using a safe lubricant like beef tallow or lard to lubricate pans for baking, or is using those animal products in the packaging of the product, does FDA require that these additives be listed in the ingredient list? (February 2008)

Pan release agents are generally considered to be processing aids and therefore are typically exempt from ingredient statement labeling for FDA-regulated foods. However when release agents contain an allergen (milk, eggs, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish per the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004) the lubricant should be listed by the common or usual name in the ingredient statement. In addition, if omitting an ingredient would cause the product to be misbranded because its label is misleading or not truthful (e.g., the product is commonly understood to be vegetarian or labeled as such but a release agent from an animal source is used), then the presence of the release agent should be disclosed in the ingredient statement.

Is it a requirement that vitamins and minerals (Vitamins A and C, Calcium, Iron, etc.) in the Nutrition Facts be reported using even numbers? If yes, what is the logic for this, and what is the rule? (January 2008)

FDA regulations specify "rounding rules" for the % Daily Value of vitamins and minerals. When the rules are properly followed the % Daily Value for a nutrient can be an even or odd number. Per FDA regulations for vitamins and minerals (Vitamins A and C, Calcium, Iron, etc.), round the Daily Value to:

  • nearest 2% if less than 10%
  • nearest 5% if between 10% and 50%
  • nearest 10% if greater than 50%

If the Daily Value is between 1 and 2%, the % Daily Value may be stated as 0% or 2%.



Nutrition Facts Color  |  Food Sample Packages  |  FDA Label Approval  |  "Trans Fat Free"  |  Trans Fat Labeling  |  Over-stickering  |  FDA Label Regulations  |  Label Statements for MyPyramid  |  Allergen Statement  |  Signature Line  |  U.S. & Canada Labeling  |  Small Business Exemption

Does the nutritional labeling have to be printed in black? (December 2007)

Per the Code of Federal Regulations, the Nutrition Facts panel must be in black or one color type printed on a white or neutral background with the intent that it is very easy to read. However, the other required labels components (ingredient statement, signature line, etc.) can use inverse printing as in light type with dark background. In all cases, the information must be readable and compliant with regulations for minimum type size and specific placement. For compliance checks on your label prototypes select Label Compliance Review service.

Are sample food packages required to include Nutrition Facts or other food label components? (November 2007)

Food samples do not have to be labeled with any of the required label components as long as the product package clearly identifies the product as a sample. For example, the product packaging can include the words "not labeled for retail sale."

It doesn't matter if the samples are distributed by mail, handed out, or offered for taste testing in a retail store or other public place.

A company may voluntarily include some or all of the required label components on a food sample package, but if all five label components are not presented in the manner FDA specifies, the label must state "not labeled for retail sale" or equivalent wording.

Providing retail-ready samples is often a smart choice in achieving the objective of a sample campaign; there is widespread consumer interest in knowing the ingredients and nutritional value of purchased foods.

To have retail sale ready sample packages, the five required label components are: statement of identity, statement of net contents, Nutrition Facts, ingredient statement with allergen labeling compliance, and name and address of manufacturer, packer or distributor. For help with FDA compliant food labels select Full Label Compliance service.

Is FDA approval of food labels required? If yes, does Food Consulting Company include this step in my label order? (October 2007)

FDA does not require or provide a service for the Agency’s approval of food labels. However, labelers must comply fully with the labeling regulations on their own or through the help of their choice. Food Consulting Company helps you produce 100% FDA compliant labels with Full Label Compliance and Label Compliance Review.

The requirements for food labeling are detailed in the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, Code of Federal Regulations, Food Labeling Guide, Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, and in FDA guidance documents all of which can be accessed at

The Agency learns of non-compliant labels on foods via random checks and checks during inspections, and through tips from consumer groups, individual consumers and competitors.

FDA issues warning letters to food packagers when violations are discovered; the Agency directs food packagers to correct non-compliant labels or face further FDA action.

What is the legal definition for "trans fat free?" Can a restaurant or product make this claim? (September 2007)

To date, FDA has not established a definition for "trans fat free." Therefore this claim cannot be made on food labels or on menus and menu boards, or in food marketing.

Per FDA regulations the term "free" is a nutrient content descriptor. The regulations regarding the use of nutrient content claims are specific; they are intended to ensure that the descriptive terms that characterize or compare nutrient levels are used consistently for all types of food products and are thus meaningful to consumers. In general, nutrient content claim regulations apply only to nutrients or dietary substances that have an established daily value; no daily value has been established for trans fat.

In addition to "free," the existing regulations disallow trans fat claims using the following terms: Free, Zero, No, Without, Trivial Source of, Negligible Source of, Dietarily Insignificant Source of, Low, Little, Few, Contains a Small Amount of, Low Source of, Reduced/Less, Lower, Fewer, and any synonyms of these words.

FDA regulations do allow the Nutrition Facts to state 0g trans fat when the serving contains less than 0.5 gram (1/2 g) of trans fat, and a separate factual statement "0g trans fat per serving" can be used elsewhere on the label. Menus can also make this statement about a menu item when it is true and factual.

FDA continues to conduct research and consider scientific evidence that may influence the use of nutrient content and other claims for trans fat on food labels and menus and in marketing.

I want to highlight that my dessert topping with 1.5g fat and less than 0.5g trans fat per serving contains only a small amount of partially hydrogenated oil compared to competing brands that contain almost all partially hydrogenated oil. Can I highlight this with my simplified Nutrition Facts panel? (August 2007)

You are puzzled about the specifics of the trans fat labeling rules, and Food Consulting Company agrees the rules are tricky. Per the rules for simplified Nutrition Facts [21CFR101.9(f)], you are not allowed to report trans fat as a separate line item under total fat in the Nutrition Facts panel when trans fat is 0 (0.49g or less per serving); however in some cases the rules do require a declaration of trans fat in the "not a significant source" statement.

You also have the option of using a standard Nutrition Facts panel [21CFR101.9(c) rules]. These rules require that when total fat is a reportable amount, saturated fat and trans fat must both be listed as separate line items within the Nutrition Facts panel.

See examples of correct and incorrect Nutrition Facts panels in Quick References.

In either case (simplified or standard) you may state "0g trans fat" on the front label panel but be aware, under current rules, your product label may not state "trans fat free" or "no trans fat."

My product (non perishable grain) was stamped with an incorrect and too early "best before" date. Does FDA allow me to use a sticker to cover the incorrect information with the correct date? (July 2007)

Per FDA's Food Labeling Guide it is permissible to use stickers to make changes in labeling, therefore you can correct the best before date with an over-sticker.

Best before/shelf life labeling is not an FDA requirement. However if used the information must be truthful and not misleading; truthful and not misleading is a minimal requirement for all label statements and information.

Voluntary inclusion of a freshness date on labels encourages retailers to rotate products and lets consumers know when the time is up for highest product quality. Food Consulting Company believes that including best before/shelf life labeling is a wise consumer-friendly business practice.

Food Consulting Company offers Shelf Life Evaluation. A food technologist will test your product sample for parameters that affect the shelf life (pH, water activity, moisture, solids, others); these findings will be used along with specifics about product ingredients, processing methods, and packaging to determine the current shelf life of your product and help you reach your shelf life goal.

I would like to sell my product in grocery stores/gourmet shops. What service do I order to make sure my label meets FDA label regulations? (June 2007)

To sell an FDA-regulated product by retail in the United States the product label must contain five label components. These are: statement of identity, statement of net content, Nutrition Facts, ingredient statement with allergen labeling compliance, and name and address of manufacturer, packer or distributor. Labeling rules state where each component must be placed, minimum type size requirements, and more.

Food Consulting Company's Full Label Compliance service takes the product information you provide and produces the required components for you. The service includes nutrition analysis, a Nutrition Facts panel, an ingredient statement including allergen labeling compliance, and help with product naming and label claims. The package also includes label layout instructions and a final label review.

You have options to successfully produce FDA-compliant labeling:

  • Food Consulting Company can help you from start to finish with Full Label Compliance. With this choice, once you supply the necessary information for a product you will receive ready-to-print label components and a guarantee for accuracy.
  • Produce your labels by referring to the FDA website. Use FDA resources (Code of Federal Regulations, FDA Guidance Documents, and FDA's Food Labeling Guide) and contract with Food Consulting Company for Ongoing Regulatory Support to get expert advice as needed.
  • Refer to FDA's food labeling resources (Code of Federal Regulations, FDA Guidance Documents, and FDA's Food Labeling Guide) for detailed information on labeling requirements and proceed to produce your product label. Submit your final label work to Food Consulting Company for Label Compliance Review to assure FDA compliance.

Can I use my product label to tell how my food fits into MyPyramid guidelines? (May 2007)

FDA has not issued formal guidance on using MyPyramid on food labels, but in conversations with Food Consulting Company the Agency has referred to USDA's guidance document to explain how MyPyramid can be used on FDA-regulated food labels.

In 2005 USDA published a Statement of Interim Policy Guidance entitled "Use of the USDA MyPyramid Reference on Meat and Poultry Labeling and Whole Grain Claims."

In part, the USDA guidance advises labelers:

  • MyPyramid replaced the Food Guide Pyramid in 2005; food labels referencing the old graphic (Food Guide Pyramid) need to be revised to eliminate this outdated reference.
  • MyPyramid uses discreet numbers in common household measure, i.e., cups and ounces (not numbers of servings).
  • MyPyramid references on food labels should be based on the 2,000 calorie level when stating the amount the product provides toward the recommendation for a major food group.
  • MyPyramid references to whole grain that state or imply a high or increased amount (example, excellent source of whole grains) cannot be used on food labels. However, truthful and not-misleading statements of fact that do not characterize the specific level of whole grains can be used.

For more information on FDA food label claims, see the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition webpage, or contract with Food Consulting Company for One-time or Ongoing Regulatory Support.

NOTE: MyPyramid was the USDA food guidance system when this answer was published in May 2007. It has since been replaced with MyPlate. However, the concepts discussed above remain relevant.

If a product does not contain any allergens should you still put "Allergens: Contains none" on the label? (April 2007)

Allergen labeling of foods is required by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA). The Act identifies the "big eight" food allergens (milk, egg, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, soybeans) and specifies how labeling is to be done. According to the Act, a "Contains" statement is not required to indicate the presence of allergens as long as allergens that are present within the package are listed by common or usual name in the ingredient statement.

Furthermore, the statement "Allergens: Contains none" risks being misleading and is therefore discouraged. The "big eight" allergens account for 90 percent of food allergies and it would not be wise to suggest that a product does not contain any of the other possible allergens.

I manufacture spreads in collaboration with a restaurant and the restaurant name is the prominent name on the label. Whose address should be used in the label signature line? (March 2007)

Either entity’s name with address can be used in the signature line. If the restaurant name/address is used, it needs to be preceded with the words "Manufactured for" or "Distributed by" or similar wording that expresses the facts. If the manufacturer's name/address is used, no lead-in is necessary.

For reference, this question is covered in the Code of Federal Regulations (21CFR101.5).

I would like to import a product from Europe for sale in both the USA and Canada; what should I be aware of so that my label will be allowed in both countries? (February 2007)

It is not possible to create one label that will satisfy both USA and Canadian labeling requirements because: each country has different requirements for formatting the Nutrition Facts, the rounding rules are different, in some cases the units for reporting nutrients differ, and the countries have established different Daily Values for some nutrients.

Also, the requirements for ingredient/allergen declarations are different, and there are some differences relating to net contents statements, nutrition/health claims, and other aspects of the label.

I'm launching my first food product; I have heard about a small business exemption for nutrition labeling. How can I find out if I qualify? (January 2007)

FDA explains the small business exemptions for nutrition labeling here. In brief, the product launcher may use the exemption if the product will be sold only by retailers that have total annual gross sales of not more than $500,000, or annual gross sales of foods of not more than $50,000. A low volume exemption might apply if the product launcher/company meets certain requirements for number of employees and number of product units that are sold annually in the United States. For some exemptions, a notice must be filed annually with FDA.

When considering an exemption for nutrition labeling it is very important to understand that product labels must still be in compliance with other FDA labeling regulations such as, but not limited to, ingredient statement and allergen labeling.

Also, if any nutrient content claim (e.g., "low fat"), health claim, or other nutrition information is provided on the label, or in packaging or advertising, the small business exemption is not applicable for the product.

Product launchers who choose to forego the small business nutrition labeling exemption, and instead opt to include Nutrition Facts:

  • better meet consumers' expectations for product information; consumers are accustomed to knowing such things as servings per container and serving size, calories and fat grams per serving, etc. They will wonder why the nutritional information isn't on the label and consequently may lose interest in the product.
  • position the new product as one that is intended to have a serious market presence.
  • enable the company to highlight nutrition information in labeling and advertising.
  • open more doors for product distribution; many retailers have decided on their own not to carry products that are not labeled with Nutrition Facts.
  • make a smart up-front investment; once the Nutrition Facts label is developed, it is good for thousands of product unit sales..



MSG Ingredient Listing  |  Voluntary Nutrients  |  Lab or Database Analysis  |  Internet Sales  |  GMO Labeling  |  U.P.C. Barcode  

If MSG is a sub-ingredient of an ingredient I use and is present in a very small amount in my product, do I have to list it on my label? (December 2006)

Yes, FDA requires that all ingredients, including sub-ingredients that have a functional or technical effect, be included within the ingredient statement. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) always has a functional or technical effect (flavor enhancement) and so it must be listed. If a company does not want to include monosodium glutamate in the ingredient statement, then the manufacturer should look for an ingredient to purchase that does not contain this flavor enhancer.

Note: Monosodium Glutamate must be listed by its full name; MSG as an abbreviated acronym is not acceptable.

If my product does not contain significant amounts of one or more of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron, can I report other vitamins/minerals in this space? (November 2006)

Yes, labelers can voluntarily list other vitamins and minerals that naturally occur in a food and for which a Reference Daily Intake (RDI) or Daily Reference Value (DRV) has been established, regardless if the four required vitamins/minerals (Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron), are or are not listed in the table of nutrient values. The voluntarily declared values are to be listed after the required vitamins/minerals and in a specific order.

Nutrition labeling laws require that Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron be declared in the table of nutrient values in the Nutrition Facts. However when any or all of these nutrients is/are present at "zero" levels in a food (defined as less than 2% of the RDI), then the "not a significant source" statement can be used instead of separate line items; the "not a significant source" statement must be placed directly beneath those vitamins/minerals that have been listed in the table of nutrient values.

Any vitamin or mineral that is added as a nutrient supplement or for which a claim is made in labeling or in advertising must be declared in the table of nutrient values.

Which is best for getting nutrient values for my product, laboratory or database analysis? (October 2006)

FDA does not require a specific method of analysis for Nutrition Facts, but the Agency does require label values to be accurate within the tolerances specified in the Code of Federal Regulations.

When performed correctly, the database method is typically a better predictor of the nutritional analysis from multiple production runs than a single laboratory analysis. This is because the database method uses the statistical average for commodity products that can vary with growing conditions and other factors. FDA actually encourages the use of nutrient databases as a low-cost alternative to laboratory analysis. In fact nearly all Food Consulting Company clients choose this approach; exceptions are for products that contain ingredients for which nutrient data is not available or for foods that undergo processing where the nutrient changes cannot be confidently predicted.

When you select database analysis you will provide your product formulations, raw material specifications, and processing information to us under strict confidentiality. We will analyze your product to determine the 100-gram data.

With laboratory analysis you will provide us with the 100-gram data lab report. Contact Us if you need a referral for a new lab analysis.

In both cases we use the findings of the analysis to develop the Nutrition Facts panel for your product. As part of this work we determine the FDA-regulated serving size and servings per container, then calculate the nutrient profile per serving, apply the rounding rules, and determine percent daily values for the required Nutrition Facts panel components. Finally we produce a camera-ready Nutrition Facts panel formatted according to your package dimensions and FDA specifications. This is what you provide to your printer, artist, or package designer.

I'm planning to sell my products by internet. Do I need a Nutrition Facts Panel?  (September 2006)

Yes. There are no special provisions for internet/mail order sales. By law, all foods sold in the U.S. must be in full compliance with FDA nutrition labeling requirements that are specified in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, regardless of the method of sale.

What is FDA's stand on GMO labeling? (August 2006)

In consumer and industry press, GMO is the commonly-used acronym for Genetically Modified Organisms. GMO foods are those produced through bioengineering. FDA guidance states that the agency has "no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding."

FDA position on label statements about foods that ARE NOT genetically-modified:
FDA does not generally allow food labeling such as "GMO-free" because this would imply that the absence of bioengineering makes a product safer or superior to comparable products. FDA has indicated that statements about foods that do not contain ingredients produced from bioengineered foods could avoid or minimize such implication by using the following statement: "We do not use ingredients that were produced using biotechnology."

FDA position on label statements about foods that ARE genetically-modified:
FDA does allow manufacturers to use informative statements in labeling of foods that contain ingredients produced from bioengineered foods, e.g., "Genetically engineered" or "This product contains cornmeal that was produced using biotechnology." These statements are optional. However, if a bioengineered food is different in any way from the food it resembles (e.g, nutritional, organoleptic, or functional characteristics), then FDA requires that the label states how the food is different. The example FDA cites is high oleic acid soybean oil from soybeans developed using biotechnology to decrease the amount of saturated fat.

FDA's bottom line on GMO labeling (as on all food labeling) is that a food cannot be misbranded in any way. A food is misbranded if its labeling is false or misleading.

Where can I find information on the U.P.C. barcode? (July 2006)

The U.P.C. barcode is not a regulatory requirement, but as a practical measure it should be included on your food label. Retailers will generally not stock your product without it. The first step in getting a barcode is becoming a member of GS1 US Partner Connections (previously Uniform Code Council). Once you become a member, you will receive a company prefix for use in creating your own U.P.C. barcodes. See for more information.