A Practical Guide for Food Labelling and Compliance

Author: Rotimi Toki
The Food label list must contain the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor. If the name given is not the actual manufacturer, then, it must be accompanied by the qualifying phrase which states the firm’s relation to the product. For example “manufactured for” or “distributed by”, street address if the firm name and address are not listed in the current city directory or telephone book, City or town, State ( or country, if outside the US), Zip code (or mailing code used in countries other than United States).
1. Grouping information
Information should be grouped together in a manner that enables consumers to make informed purchase decisions and use food safely. Where possible, this information should be on a single face of the pack with a defined border. Label content must contain name under which the product is sold, list of ingredients, the quantity of certain ingredients, net quantity, date of minimum durability, nutrition information, date mark, or a reference to where it can be found, instructions for use and/or storage, alcoholic strength and contact details.
2. Nutrition labelling of food
Nutrition information relating to food shall be provided for all products intended for human consumption and offered on sale unless an exemption is provided for the product. When food is not in package form, the required nutrition labelling information shall be displayed clearly at the point of sale (e.g. on a counter card, sign or tag affixed to the product or some other appropriate device). But when the food is in packaged form the required nutritionlabelling information shall appear on the label.
3. Nutrition labelling requirement exemptions
Nutrition labelling requirement exemptions apply to food packages manufactured by a small business, foods served in restaurants, or delivered to homes and ready for immediate consumption. Exemptions also apply to delicatessen-type food, bakery product and confections that are sold directly to consumers from location where it is prepared. Other exemptions are foods that provide no significant nutrition such as instant coffee (plain and unsweetened), dietary supplements of vitamins and minerals (exemption does not apply to dietary supplements on conventional food forms), medical foods, bulk foods shipped for further processing or packaging before retail sale.
4. Declaration of allergens on labels
Major food allergens under Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act 2004(FALCPA) are milk, egg, fish – species such as bass, flounder or cod, crustacean shellfish – (e.g. crab, lobster or shrimp), tree nut – specific type of nut must be declared (almonds, pecans or walnuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans. In the EU six additional items were added to the above, namely, celery, mustard, lupin, molluscs and sulphites (at concentrations of more than 10mg/kg or 10mg/L expressed as Sulphur dioxide.
5. Specific labelling requirements
Certain foods have their own specific labelling requirements. These include the following caseins and caseinates, coffee and chicory, fruit jam, fruit jelly, marmalade and chestnut puree, gelatine, honey, natural mineral water, spirit drinks, sugar, foodstuffs containing quinine and caffeine, artificial flavour – which is not derived from fruit, or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, spice and also herbs or similar plant material, meat, fish, egg, poultry, dairy products or fermentation products.
6. Print size and quality
All product information must be easily visible and clearly legible, must be clear and accurate and not mislead. Do not hide, obscure or interrupt product information with any other written or pictorial matter. If possible use simple sans serif fonts with a good ‘x’ height. Avoid ornate fonts or distracting effects. Don’t have all the text on the package in bold. Use the normal weight of the font for standard text, and bold for emphasis only. Avoid excessive use of upper case letters. Only use italics for isolated words. Use the ‘range left’ format and avoid hyphenation and justified text. Ideally and where possible make sure there is a good tonal contrast between the type and the background. Avoid ‘reversing out’ except possibly for headings in a large font size. If using ‘watermarking’, make sure the text remains legible. Avoid the use of green and red together- it can be difficult to decipher. It is important to ensure that numerals are distinct – the numbers 0,3,5,6 and 8 can easily be misread in certain typefaces. When presenting information like nutrition labelling on a range of products, adopt a consistent format.

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