Food labeling is a key standard for food safety.

Food Labeling

What is food labeling?

There is an international standard that outlines proper food labeling. It includes:

  1. Principal display and information panel
  2. Statement of identity
  3. Ingredient statement
  4. Net quantity of contents
  5. Statement of responsible party
  6. Nutrition facts
  7. Claims
  8. Label warnings
  9. Education and training

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines food labeling as anything that  “includes any written, printed, or graphic matter that is present on the label, accompanies the food, or is displayed near the food, including that to promote its sale or disposal.”1

A food label is defined as any of the following that is attached to or part of a container of food:1

  • Tags
  • Brands
  • Marks
  • Pictorial or other descriptive matter
  • Written or printed material
  • Embossed or impressed on

Food labeling should be easily understood by consumers. Guidelines under Codex Alimentarius state that prepackaged food cannot be labeled in a way that is misleading, false, or deceptive.2 The Codex Alimentarius guidelines state that “packaged food must be labelled with the name of the food, list of ingredients, net contents, name and address of manufacturer, distributor, importer, exporter or vendor, country of origin, lot identification, date marking and storage instructions, instructions for use.”2


In 1967, the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act was enacted. It requires all consumer food products to be honestly and informatively labeled.3 Before 1960, the only packaged foods were specialized dietary foods. With the increase in food manufacturing in the 1960s, consumers wanted more information about the ingredients in the processed foods they were eating.

Regulatory compliance

Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations is where most of the information on food labeling is located.4 Food labeling is regulated by the FDA  for manufacturers of packaged food.


All packaged food manufacturers should establish a food labeling program to ensure compliance with federal regulations. Products that do not comply or are in violation of the regulations may be subject to recall. A food labeling program should have the following components:5

1. Principal display and information panels – The principal display panel is the section of the label that is displayed on retail shelves. It is the area most visible to consumers and provides information such as net quantity and identity of the contents. The information panel is to the right of the principal display panel, and contains the nutritional panel,...

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