Help! I need a Food label for US grocery and retail stores. Where do I Start?

FSMA Food Labels

If you are new to the food labeling, nutrition data and packaging world this can be very daunting.  You might not know where to start looking for information.   You may have checked out the FDA site already, but that has so much information and compliance regulations which can leave you feeling overwhelmed and unsure how to finish your food package.

Your main goal is to get your great products pitched in front of a good retail or distribution pipeline and you need to meet labeling, nutrition facts and packaging requirements for your products to make it available to the public.  Sounds simple enough, right!

I am hoping this blog post will help ease some of that burden and help organize your thoughts and process.

First off, the Food and Drug Association (FDA) is responsible for making sure that foods sold in the United States are safe, wholesome and properly labeled.  This applies to both foods produced domestically and foods coming from foreign countries.  There is also another agency that regulates labels, and food safety for meat, poultry and processed egg products, so if you make food products for that category you will probably work with the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) team.  The FSIS link will help you determine if you qualify for the FSIS rules, what the requirements are and how they can assist.

For foods falling under the FDA umbrella, a great place to start is to review this FDA page (link below) which has guidance for new manufacturers and offers a question and answer type setup for common questions regarding statement of identity (naming your food), location of the labels, what type of food label to use, nutrition facts panel and a lot more.  I suggest you bookmark this section of the FDA site for any issues or questions you have regarding how to navigate the food packaging, safety and food nutrition labeling rules — FDA Industry Guidance

Now remember an important point — in 2016 FDA announced changes to the food label format, and nutrients displayed under FSMA (Food Safety and Modernization Act).  Basically, what this means is as a food manufacturer you have to be FSMA compliant by January 1st, 2020 if you exceed 10 million in annual food sales or by January 1st, 2021 if your sales are lower than 10 million.  You can still display new labels on your package now if you choose to, many manufacturers looking to avoid a last minute rush to finish all their products are doing just that.

Now is also a great time to look at your recipe or formula, since with the new food nutrition labeling rules there are 3 new nutrients on the food label – Potassium, Vitamin D and Added Sugars.  You probably will need to look at your food product carefully to see if any vendors need to be switched or if your product requires any product reformulations to make it more attractive to your consumers based on these new rules.

Now if you import or export food into or from the United States you also have a lot of regulations and process to go through.  A great place to start is this link here import/export resource details to help you get that process started.

I hope the above helps you think about how to get started with your labeling and packaging requirements.  Give yourself enough time so you can properly research and make your final product and package stand apart from your competition.

We will continue to provide our clients and the industry with easy to use tools and resources, if you would like us to discuss a topic please feel free to contact our team and share your thoughts on what will be helpful for you.