What is Required on a Food Label?

Spiced nuts from Treat Bakeshop in glass jars.

So you’re ready to label your food product, but you’re unsure about food labeling requirements. Don’t worry! We’ve combed through the FDA’s Food Labeling Guide and have compiled the main criteria that all food labels should meet. We’ve addressed what should be on the front panel as well as what you should include in the Nutrition Facts panel, and more. 

Principal Display Panel (PDP) Requirements

The Statement of Identity and Net Weight needs to be displayed on the front of the package or another prominent area, commonly referred to as the Principal Display Panel or PDP.

Three jars of Prohibited Provisions artisan garlic with a specialty wooden spoon.

Statement of Identity

Tell your potential customers what the product is, i.e. “rice” or “honey” or “edamame,” etc. The most common name of the food should be used, or an appropriate descriptor if the food does not have a common name. Brand names should not be used in place of the name of the food.

As for font size and type, the FDA asks that you make it big and bold so there’s no question as to what’s in the package. Be proud of your product! Make sure the Statement of Identity is parallel to the base of the package so it’s easily readable.

With the rest of the design, like your artwork, brand logo, etc. you can be as creative as you want, so long as those elements do not obscure the Statement of Identity.

Net Weight or Quantity

Tell consumers how much product is contained in the package. The Net Weight needs to be displayed on the same panel as the Statement of Identity, and both metric (grams, kilograms, milliliters, liters) and U.S. Customary System units (ounces, pounds, fluid ounces) should be used.

The Net Weight should be placed on the bottom 30% of the PDP, parallel to the base of the package.

Information Panel Requirements

If not on the PDP itself, the following information must be displayed to the immediate right of the PDP on the Information Panel. The FDA also stipulates that no “intervening material” should be displayed between these required sections, so keep this information grouped together (see example label below).

The Information Panel is one of the most important parts of a food product label and contains a lot of moving parts, but don’t be intimidated! Once you know what’s required, it’s easy to fill in the blanks. Each section has its own set of requirements. Read below to get an overview of each section.

A mockup of a label for raspberry preserves that includes FDA required information.

Nutrition Facts

In the information panel, you’ll list everything from serving size to daily value percentages. Though there are many moving parts to nutrition labeling law, the main detail to keep in mind about the Nutrition Facts panel is that it must be easy to read. The FDA lists the following requirements that will ensure readability for your consumers:

  1. Font that is at least 1/16 of an inch in height based on the lower case letter “o.” Usually, this means a minimum of 6 pt font.
  2. Font cannot be three times as high as it is wide, or the words will be distorted and unreadable.
  3. The header “Nutrition Facts” must be the largest font size in the panel (larger than 8pt) and must span the width of the table.
  4. The panel must be set off in a box.
  5. Though the Nutrition Facts panel does not have to be black and white, the font must contrast with the background enough so the information is readable. Think light background, dark font.

The Nutrition Facts panel doesn’t have to be placed parallel to the bottom of the box, like the Net weight or Statement of Identity, though we and the FDA both recommend consistency with presentation. If the Nutrition Facts panel is too large to fit on the Information Panel vertically, you can move the footnote to the right, or present it in a tabular format instead.

Nutrition Facts: Serving Size

To make it easier for consumers to compare products and make informed decisions about the foods they were buying, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act was passed in 1990. Since then, Serving Sizes have been required on food labels. The USDA and USFDA have chosen standardized units to make the process simpler, such as cups, grams, etc. though the units you use to describe the serving size of your food product may depend on the product itself. For example, a bag of candy may indicate 2-3 pieces as the serving size, not grams, etc. as 2-3 pieces are most commonly consumed in a sitting.

Just as well, single-serving food items should be described in the packaging they are contained in. For example, if you package mixed nuts and a single-serving of nuts is contained in one package, the serving size on the label should be “one package.”

Nutrition Facts: Daily Values and Nutrient Claims

You will need to list the possible nutrients and daily values that your product provides. Since every product is unique, we can’t cover every possible scenario, though the FDA goes in depth regarding these requirements

We also discovered a few online tools that will help you determine nutrients and daily values based on your recipe. Tools like Esha Food Labeling Software, Recipal, and LabelCalc help make Nutrition Fact creation a breeze.

Two bags of granola displaying both front and back labels.

Ingredients List Requirements

Tell your customers what the ingredients are that make your product so tasty! List ingredients from the heaviest to the lightest, even if the lightest ingredient is the main one. Of course, if you have a single-ingredient food product, such as honey, an Ingredients List is not necessary. Some exceptions to this include added sweeteners, flavors, etc, in which case you will need to list. 

Always list ingredients by their common name, so say “sugar” and not “sucrose.” For food allergens, you may either include those in the main ingredients list, or add another line beginning with “Contains:” and list all food allergens used as ingredients in your product.

The ingredients list must be located on the same panel as the Nutrition Facts and manufacturer’s address, though no particular order is necessary. Like the Nutrition Facts panel, font size should be at least 1/16 of an inch in height based on the lower case letter “o.”

Manufacturer’s Name and Address 

Give the name and address of the distributor, packer, or manufacturer of your product. Consumers want to know where the product came from! 

If you manufacture and package your food product yourself, list your company’s name and business address. If you partner with a separate manufacturer, packer, or distributor, you’ll need to list their company name and address. 

Get Started

If you have any questions, or think you may need the help of a designer, give us a call! We’re here to assist with all your labeling needs. If you’re ready to move forward with a label order, head on over to our order page to get the ball rolling. You can do this!

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