Creating a nutrition facts panel is sort of like a rite of passage for first-time food manufacturers. Even though the FDA has a small business exemption that excuses food manufacturers who sell less than 100,000 units of their products annually from having a nutrition facts panel on their product, including a label on a food product package is standard practice in the industry—especially for those who want to grow their business and sell their products in retail stores.
Speaking of standards, today I want to talk about the FDA’s standards for the nutrition facts panel. Food manufacturers often ask, why is the information on the nutrition facts panel standardized? So, let’s take a look at why this is the case and how you can make sure your nutrition facts panel complies with the FDA’s standards.
Why is the Information on the Nutrition Facts Panel Standardized?
The main reason the nutrition facts panel has such specific requirements is to help consumers understand the nutritional value of a food product in order to make healthy choices about what they eat. When all food labels have the same categories for nutritional values, the same format, and the same layout, consumers are able to compare different food products side by side and choose the best option for them.
Standardizing the nutrition facts panel also ensures that the most important nutrients are included on the panel. For example, many Americans don’t get enough vitamin A in their diets, so it is standard to include this value on the nutrition facts panel to help people consume adequate levels. In fact, the current standardized nutrition facts panel is about to change in 2020 to incorporate the nutrients that are currently more important for the American public to consume more of or avoid (Vitamin D and added sugars, respectively) based on the most recent nutritional science.
Since food manufacturers must provide a standardized, up-to-date nutrition facts panel on their food product, there is no leniency or room to improvise when it comes to creating it. While it can seem daunting to know your label needs to be in complete compliance with the FDA’s rules, there are some great strategies you can use to make sure your label has all the required components.
Strategies for Creating an FDA Compliant Nutrition Facts Panel
Creating an FDA compliant, standardized nutrition facts panel does not have to be complicated or time-consuming. While many first-time food manufacturers assume they need to learn all the FDA’s regulations for nutrition labeling, that actually isn’t the case. In fact, using the following three strategies, you can create a standardized nutrition facts panel easily and quickly:
- Use an FDA compliant online nutrition analysis software: This is my number one tip for creating a perfect nutrition facts panel every time. Software that is FDA-compliant means you don’t have to worry about font sizes, formats, or which nutritional values need to be included—all this information is programmed into the system. All you have to do is enter your recipe and serving size, then your values will instantly be filled into the panel. Just be sure you choose a paid, reputable online nutrition analysis software that is created for the industry. Unlike free nutrition analysis programs, such software will have up-to-date label formatting, which means you’ll have the latest edition of the nutrition facts panel.
- Choose a software that has a USDA-compiled ingredient database: Database analysis is the most accurate form of nutrition analysis available. The USDA has extensively tested foods for their nutritional value, so by choosing a software with a USDA-compiled database, you are ensuring your nutrition facts are reliable and that your panel meets the FDA’s standards.
- Consult with a food labeling expert: A food labeling consultant would be happy to check your completed nutrition facts label, ingredient list, and allergen statement to be certain you have done everything correctly. While using an FDA-compliant software does ensure the panel is done in its standardized format, sometimes people miss typing in an ingredient or forget to use the FDA rounding rules. Or, a consultant can answer specific questions you have or even complete the analysis for you if you are pressed for time. In any case, once your nutrition label has been checked by an expert, you can rest assured that it is ready to hit the shelves.
While it is certainly important to understand why the information on the nutrition facts panel is standardized, what’s more important is that you ensure your food label is up-to-date and compliant with FDA standards. Fortunately, when you use FDA compliant online nutrition analysis software to create your nutrition facts panel, you don’t have to worry about all the different standards and guidelines—you simply need to plug in your recipe and let the software do the rest. Once that is done, your product will be ready to debut on retail shelves.