Although we have been around for the better part of 15 years, it never ceases to amaze us how engrained the idea is that a manufacturer must use a lab in order to create FDA-Compliant nutrition labels for their food products. But we still get the question! To be fair, there are circumstances under which a manufacturer does need a lab, and we’ll get to that. But for approximately 90% of the products you will find on retail shelves today, you can use an ingredient-database platform. So are you one of the 90% or are you one of the few that actually needs a lab? Let’s find out.
How Do I Know if I Need to Use a Lab for My Nutrition Analysis?
Before we jump into this section, it is important to note that even if you must use a lab, it is important to find a qualified labeling partner to handle your food label creation for you. Having your product analyzed through a lab will simply account for the nutritional side of the food label. If you need an FDA-formatted nutritional panel with accompanying ingredient and allergen statement, you will need a qualified labeling platform to compliment your lab reporting. (And since you’re reading this article, you’ve found one, so bravo!)
As mentioned previously, there are times where using a lab to analyze your food product for nutritional accuracy is the only route to go. And to be clear, we’re not hating on labs here! On the contrary, we actually have a lab-partner for clients that come to us that are unaware that they need the input of a lab to create their label. So how do you know if you are in need of a lab? If you are creating products that meet any of the following criteria, your product will require a lab analysis:
Under these circumstances, the assistance of a lab is important to assure that you are nutritionally accurate. This is because there is no way for our system to calculate absorption rates of the oil or the vitamins/minerals (in the case of an infused product).
To dive a little deeper here, manufacturers of fried products must use a lab. When a manufacturer comes to us for their label creation and says that their food product’s cooking process includes frying, we are quick to send them to our lab partner to determine the oil absorption that occurs during the frying process. Once a product is submerged in oil, absorption naturally occurs, and we must account for that on the nutritional label. Prior to determining the absorption rate, an ingredient-database platform like LabelCalc can do about 95% of the heavy-lifting in regards to your product recipe analysis. But the recipe analysis and label can not be completed without accounting for the oil that has been absorbed into your product during the frying process. These numbers must be plugged in once the results have been received.
Manufacturers of “infused” products run into the same issue as fried-product manufacturers in regards to absorption rates. If you are creating a water infused with fruit or a tea that is absorbing more than herbs, then you will most likely need to know how much of the vitamin/mineral content is being absorbed into your product to account for them correctly on your panel. Let’s pretend you were creating an infused-water product made with strawberries, mint, and cucumbers. You use 1 lb of strawberries, 3 sprigs of mint and 2 cucumbers to 1 gallon of water and you allow it to steep overnight then you strain the remaining fruit and mint and reserve the now-infused water for packaging. How many nutrients from the strawberries, mint and cucumbers have been absorbed? Although some research suggests that about 20% of the nutrients found in fruits are absorbed into the water, accuracy is key. And once you’ve found out the answer, you can plug that reporting into the LabelCalc database and finish creating your label.
If you are one of the lucky 90% that don’t find themselves in the “fried” or “infused” categories, then using a platform like LabelCalc is more than sufficient in helping you create FDA-compliant food labels without a lab. The majority of product recipes are simple and require a basic analysis that can be completed by utilizing an ingredient database like the one available in LabelCalc. Simply enter your product recipe, ingredient by ingredient, and LabelCalc will assign the appropriate nutrient values to the measurements of ingredients that you identify in your product recipe. Once that has been completed, simply select your serving size and identify your servings per container and you’re ready to review your ingredient and allergen statements. It’s really that simple. And if you feel like you’re unsure about your entry, we have qualified nutrition professionals on standby ready to assist with your label review.
Are you surprised to find you don’t need a lab for your food product after reading this article? We think that’s a good thing. Take a look at our plans and pricing page and get your label created for under $99. Our average client saves over $700 per product when switching to LabelCalc from a lab. You’ll be happy you did!