Often, food manufacturers tell me that the FDA nutrition labeling rules seem very particular (some even say nitpicky). From label layouts to rounding rules and everything in between, I’ll admit the FDA does have some pretty stringent guidelines for proper nutrition labeling. This is, however, for good reason.
From a consumer perspective, it makes sense that nutrition labels are standardized. Not only are the guidelines in place to help inform the public about what is in their food, they ensure that the same important nutrition information is given consistently across products. This holds food manufacturers accountable for disclosing the contents of the products in a way that is familiar and comprehensive to consumers.
Another sound reason to comply with the FDA’s nutrition labeling guidelines is to avoid the consequences if you don’t. If you’re concerned about getting something wrong on your nutrition label, I’m going to fill you in on FDA food labeling enforcement and explain the best method for making a perfect FDA-compliant label from the beginning.
Food Labeling Enforcement: How it Works
Let’s pretend your food product fails, in some way, to comply with the FDA’s calorie labeling guidelines. Perhaps you’ve made an unsubstantiated health claim or you’ve failed to identify an allergenic ingredient and someone in the public reports an adverse event.
Whatever the offense, if the FDA catches wind of it (which they may through random inspection or a reported event), they typically take the following steps:
- They issue a letter that notifies you that you’ve violated the FDA’s guidelines and explains what you need to do in order to correct the situation (i.e. include an appropriate allergen statement on the label). This gives you the chance to remedy the problem without any major consequences. Depending on the severity of the violation, the letter will either be a “letter of warning” for severe cases or an “untitled letter” for smaller offenses.
- Your product is seized if you fail to address the problem promptly after receiving the warning letter. This means your product will be pulled from retail locations.
- An injunction is issued if you still haven’t satisfactorily resolved the issue. This means a court order will be put in place to strongly encourage your company to do (or not do) what the FDA has previously requested.
- Criminal prosecution will be considered, depending on the exact violation. Intentionally deceiving the public by including inaccurate health or nutrition claims, for instance, could result in a significant fine.
While I don’t personally know anyone who has gotten to the point of being fined for non-compliance, it does happen, so it’s a good idea to make sure you comply with nutrition labeling guidelines. After all, compliance with the FDA is much easier and cheaper than getting hit with a huge fine.
How to Ensure FDA Nutrition Labeling Compliance
Whenever I tell people not to stress too much about their nutrition labels because FDA compliance is actually easy, they initially don’t believe me. This is usually after they’ve sifted through countless pages of FDA labeling guidelines and feel overwhelmed by it all. And while it can certainly be overwhelming, it really doesn’t have to be.
If you use an FDA-compliant online nutrition analysis software like LabelCalc to generate your nutrition facts panel, you can be sure your labels will be done correctly. This is because the FDA labeling guidelines are incorporated right into the software so the resulting nutrition information is formatted correctly.
Essentially, all you have to do to create an FDA-compliant label is enter your recipe from the ingredient database, determine your serving size, and watch as the nutrition information is generated. You can then choose from a variety of FDA-approved label formats and sizes to find one that suits your package, instantly adjust the results to comply with the FDA’s nutrient rounding standards, and review your allergen report.
With LabelCalc, you can also add voluntary nutrient information to your nutrition label in order to substantiate nutrient content claims, health claims, or to simply highlight certain nutrients that your product is rich in.
Of course, if you still want to ensure you’ve done everything correctly and that your label, ingredient list, and allergen statement are without error, I’d recommend consulting an expert. LabelCalc’s food labeling experts would be happy to double check your label and provide any necessary feedback related to FDA regulations.
It is truly rewarding to be able to ease the worry that manufacturers initially have about food labeling enforcement. Once they see that there’s a software that makes compliance incredibly simple, there really is no need to fear getting called out by the FDA because of a food labeling mistake. Best of all, you don’t have to spend hours understanding each and every FDA guideline when the software does it for you. After all, who wouldn’t want peace of mind and extra time?
LabelCalc is an industry-leading, FDA-compliant online nutrition analysis software created for food manufacturers. For more information or to create an account, contact us today.