The Ultimate FDA Food Labeling Guide

Written by: Matt Clark | Published on:  October 08, 2021

food labels

Food labels help consumers make informed choices about their purchases. They provide important information about products such as nutritional content, manufacturing dates, health claims, and more. Such information helps customers decide whether to buy a particular food product, which is why brands put a lot of effort into creating labels that draw attention and help consumers make the right choice.

But not all labels are created equally. Some contain more information than others, but the essential data should always be present (e.g., the Nutritional Facts panel for packaged products).

Custom labels offer more than product information. Food companies print labels to promote their businesses. With a thoughtfully executed design, custom label printing can help businesses entice more customers to buy their products.

Give customers a taste of what’s to come by creating eye-catching customized labels that follow the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines. In this guide, we talk about the FDA requirements for food labels as well as how brands can print labels to attract more customers.

What’s in a Food Label?

Over the years, the FDA has revised its Food Labeling Guide to address questions about what should go into a food label. The downloadable guide (more than 100 pages long) contains a list of items that food producers need to consider before printing their custom food labels.

Here’s a primer on the required components classified according to their placement on the label:

Principal Display Panel (PDP)

The principal display panel is what customers immediately see on their first interaction with your product. In some products, the display panel can be seen on more than one side. This is called the alternate PDP. To ensure that customers are getting the right product, the PDP and alternate PDP should contain the following elements:

  • Statement of Identity (SOI) - This is the legal or common name of your product (e.g., parmesan cheese) and is different from the brand name. If a product is marketed in different forms (e.g., whole, sliced, or grated), the form should be included in the custom labels as in grated parmesan cheese. The FDA does not allow labeling food with a new name if it already has an established identity.
  • Net Quantity - Net quantity is the amount of food inside the package. It is displayed in both customary and metric units (e.g., Net wt. 1 lb. or 453 g) except for foods with random weights or packed in retail stores. Quantity declaration is found on the lower third of the PDP in the following type heights as determined by the FDA

Type Height PDP Area
1/16” (1.6 mm) 5 sq. in. (32 sq. cm.) or less
1/8” (3.2 mm) More than 5 sq. in. (32 sq. cm.) but not more than 25 sq. in. (161 sq. cm.)
3/16” (4.8 mm) More than 25 sq. in. (161 sq. cm.) but not more than 100 sq. in. (645 sq. cm.)
1/4" (6.4 mm) More than 100 sq. in. (645 sq. cm.) but not more than 400 sq. in. (2,580 sq. cm.)
1/2" (12.7 mm) Over 400 sq. in. (2,580 sq. cm.)

Information Panel

The information panel is found at the right side of the PDP (facing the customer). It contains information such as the name and address of the manufacturer or distributor, as well as the following:

Nutrition Labels

  • Manufacturer’s Information - This includes the name of the manufacturer and address listed in the current telephone directory under the responsible party name. If the manufacturer is not the responsible party, include a qualifying phrase that shows the company’s relationship to the product (e.g., Distributed by.)
  • Nutrition Facts Panel - Nutritional facts list the serving size, calorie information, nutrient amounts, and Daily Value (DV) of food. While there is no specific size requirement, the Nutrition Facts header must have a type size that’s bigger than the other prints in the custom label. The FDA requires a type size of at least 6 pts. for other information in the label. See changes to the Nutrition Facts Label.
  • Ingredient Statement - The ingredient statement is found alongside the manufacturer’s information and nutritional facts panel. Ingredients are listed by their common names (e.g., “sugar” not “sucrose”) and in descending order of weight. The type size for the ingredient statement should be at least 1/6” or 1.6 mm tall and should be legible.
  • Allergen Statement - According to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Action (FALCPA), food labels must display the “big eight” allergens in the packaging. These allergens include egg, milk, nuts, shellfish, and more. The allergen could be listed in parentheses next to the ingredient. For example, whey (milk). Alternatively, the allergen may be listed after the ingredient statement.

How to Customize Food Labels With PrintRunner

When creating food labels, you need to balance aesthetics with functionality. Each component must be presented accurately and prominently to help customers make the right purchasing decision. As soon as your product hits the shelves, it will be surrounded by dozens of other products that offer the same benefits. With PrintRunner’s printing services, you can create food labels that look good and are informational with only a few clicks.

  1. Measure the size of your packaging. The size of your customized labels is determined by the size of your packaging, which comes in a variety of shapes. Since a lot of foods come in jars, we’ll use bottles here as examples.
    • Cylindrical bottles - Measure from the end of the top curve of the bottle down to where the curve begins at the bottom. Take away about 1/8 of an inch to allow for some wiggle room when applying the label. To determine the diameter, use a measuring tape and wrap it around the body of the bottle. You can also use a ruler to take the diameter and multiply it by 3.14.
    • Flat-panel bottles - Use a ruler to measure the width and height. Remove 1/8 of an inch at the top and bottom to leave a bit of space.

  2. Select your label specifications. Food labels are available in different formats (cut-to-size, roll, sheet, and kiss-cut). We recommend using roll labels if you are going to apply the labels with a machine or in large volumes. Labels also come in a variety of materials that are suited for indoor and outdoor use. You can choose one that is writable like the white paper sticker if you want to add more information or personalize each label.
  3. Create an artwork that reflects your brand. Colors, typography, and images signify different meanings to customers. Make sure that these elements remain consistent in your design. A good design should not overshadow the functionality of the label. Keep in mind FDA guidelines when creating the design for your labels.
  4. Upload your artwork. If you already have a design, you can upload it immediately to the website. If you don’t have one yet, you can download one of our print templates to ensure that your label design adheres to the basic print requirements. You can also use PrintRunner’s online design tool in creating your labels.
  5. Ask for free proof. A free PDF proof allows you to see any technical recommendations our team has for your artwork. It ensures that your design turns out exactly how you want it.

Why Choose PrintRunner for Your Food Labels?

PrintRunner offers food labels in a variety of formats in shapes. With our custom label printing services, you can design and print labels for packaging, food storage information, delivery, and more

All labels are printed on high-quality materials with an adhesive that sticks firmly to any smooth surface. Our library of templates and stock images will help you create designs that are unique to your brand. If you’re in a rush, we can print your labels right away and have them shipped on the next business day.

Food Label FAQs

What’s the best label that I can use for refrigerated products?
We recommend white vinyl stickers for products that require refrigeration. It’s waterproof and UV-resistant, so you can use it on any product.

Can I order a sample label?
We currently don’t print sample labels. However, you can print labels for as few as 25 pieces. This way, you can see in person the quality of our labels before bulk printing.

Can you design the labels for me?
Unfortunately, we don’t have a dedicated design team for that. But our online design tool is easy to use and can help you create labels that stand out. We also have a library of stock images that you can purchase for a small fee.

When will I receive my order?
We don’t know the exact date when you will receive your order. However, you can view transit times at checkout.

Can I get the labels in custom sizes?
Only the kiss-cut labels are available in custom sizes. But we offer food labels in a wide range of sizes to accommodate every need.

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