What Are The Mandatory Elements Of A Food Label?

A food label is any tag, brand, mark, pictorial or other descriptive matter, written, printed, stencilled, marked, embossed or impressed on.

July 20, 2022

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Food purchases are considered as daily or regular purchase decisions which need low involvement and restricted external search for information. This indirectly suggests that not all consumers read or access the information provided on a food label. National diet can potentially be impacted in a positive way if the food labels are well designed. Hence it’s important to read and understand the food labels as they can help you make more informed choices. The labelling regulations only apply to food sold in packages, such as cans or cardboard boxes, whereas many foods that are not packaged by the manufacturer, such as fresh meat and fish, do not require a food label as of now.

What is a food label?

The internationally accepted definition of a food label is any tag, brand, mark, pictorial or other descriptive matter, written, printed, stenciled, marked, embossed or impressed on, or attached to, a container of food. Food labelling includes any written, printed or graphic matter that is present on the label, accompanies the food, or is displayed near the food, including that for the purpose of promoting its sale or disposal. 

Types of food label

  • Front-of-package (FOP) labels convey the purchaser about the brand name and the type of food (e.g., MAGGI NUTRI-LICIOUS - Masala Veg Atta Noodles). It may also contain a statement about the constitution of the food (such as “source of fibre and iron”) or a health claim.

  • Back-of-package (BOP) labels or commonly called as the product’s food label contain a Nutrition Facts panel that provides details of the nutritional composition of the food per 100g and per serving can also be included. (eg. 3.4 mg iron per 100 g and 2.7mg iron per 70 g serving). To make it easier for the consumer to interpret, the amounts are also stated as percent of recommended daily intake (called Daily Values in the United States and Canada). The BOP label also lists the ingredients in the food, in order by amount (main ingredient first)  followed by Food additives, best before dates, manufacturers address, Lot/Batch number, etc. 

General Requirements for a food label or food labelling

  • Every pre-packaged food should have a food label containing the information as mentioned in the regulations. 

  • The Regulations to be specified on the label shall be in English or Hindi in Devanagari writing.

  • Packaged food label should not be described or presented in any labelling ways that is false, misleading or deceptive or is probably going to make a wrong impression in regards to its character in any regard. 

  • Pre-packaged food label should be applied in such a way that they won't become separated from the container or the packaging material.

  • Printing or embossing on the food label should be clear, conspicuous, permanent and promptly readable by the consumer under general conditions of procurement and use.

  • When the container is enclosed by a wrapper, the wrapper shall convey the important information or the label on the container shall be clearly readable through the external wrapper and not covered by it.

Labelling of Pre-packaged Foods

Every packaged food shall carry the following information on the label in addition to the General Labelling requirements specified above which includes;

1. The Name of Food

The name of the food will involve the trade name or depiction of food contained in the package. 

2. List of Ingredients

The name of ingredients utilized in the food product will be recorded in descending order of their formulation by weight or volume, all things considered, at the time of its production.

3. Nutritional information

Dietary or nutritional Information/facts per 100 gm or 100ml or per serving of the food product shall be given on the label containing the accompanying:— 

  • Energy value shall be mentioned in kcal along with the amounts of protein (g), carbohydrate (g), Total Sugars (g), Added Sugars (g), Total fat (g), Saturated Fat (g), Trans fat (g), Cholesterol (mg) and Sodium (mg).

  • The amount of any other nutrient for which a nutrition or health claim is made is to be stated. 

  • The nutritional information may not be necessary, in the case of foods such as raw agricultural commodities, like spice and spice mixes, cereals, fresh or dry herbs, condiments, common salt, sugar, jaggery, or non–nutritive products eg. tea and coffee, packaged mineral and drinking water, alcoholic beverages or processed fruit and vegetables, pre-packaged assorted vegetables and products which contain single ingredients like pickle and papad.

  • In conditions where the food is served for instant consumption eg. Meals served in hospitals, hotels or by various food services vendors or halwais shops, or food transported in bulk amounts that is not for direct sale in that formulation to consumers can be exempted from declaring their nutrition panel.

4. Declaration regarding Veg or Non-Veg

  • Every packaged food should have a "Vegetarian or Non- Vegetarian" symbol and colour code as stipulated for the purpose to indicate that the product is Vegetarian Food or Non-Vegetarian food.

  • The symbol shall contain a filled circle with green colour for Vegetarian food and brown colour for Non-Vegetarian food.

  • The circle ought to have a diameter not less than the minimum size stated, inside the square with a green or brown outline having a size two-fold the diameter of the circle.

5. Declaration regarding Food Additives

  • The food additives appear in the ingredient list itself followed by the food ingredients. They are declared or recorded under the class titles which would be used together with the specific names or recognized international numerical identifications. Eg. Acidity Regulator, Anticaking Agent, Antifoaming Agent, etc.

  • The addition of colours and/or Flavours shall be displayed with the following statements in capital letters, just beneath the list of the ingredients on the label attached to any package of food. Eg. CONTAINS PERMITTED NATURAL COLOUR(S), CONTAINS ADDED FLAVOUR, CONTAINS PERMITTED SYNTHETIC FOOD COLOUR(S) AND ADDED FLAVOUR(S) 

6. Manufacturer’s name and complete address

  • The name and complete address of the manufacturer and the manufacturing unit shall be declared on every package of food.

  • If the manufacturing and the packaging units are at different places then also the name and complete address of the packing or bottling unit shall be mentioned on the package.

  • Where an article of food is imported into India, the package of food shall also carry the name and complete address of the importer in India and also the country of origin of the food item.

  • In case the food undergoes processing in a second country which changes its nature, the country in which the processing has taken place will be recorded as the country of origin for the labelling. 

7. Net quantity 

  • Net quantity in terms of weight or volume or number of units, as the case may be, should be written on every packaged food product.

  • If a food is packaged in a liquid medium then it should state the drained weight of the food as well. The “liquid medium” involves water, sugar and salt solutions, of fruit and vegetable juices or vinegar, either singly or in combination. 

  • The weight of the wrappers and packaging materials should be excluded while calculating the net quantity. 

8. Batch/Lot/Code identification 

  • A food label should also state the code number or batch number or lot number which acts as a mark of identification because of which the food can be traced back to the manufacturer and identified in the distribution.  

9. Date of manufacture or packing/ Best Before and Use By Date

  • The date, month and year in which the commodity is manufactured, packed or pre-packed and its shelf life period shall be given on the food label with the help of best before or use-by date

10. Instructions for use 

  • Instructions for use, including reconstitution and storage conditions where ever applicable, shall be mentioned on the food label, if necessary, to ensure correct utilization of the food.

Also Read - Why Date Marking Essential On Food Product Labels?

REFERENCES

  1. Prinsloo, N., Van der Merwe, D., Bosman, M., & Erasmus, A. C. (2012). A critical review of the significance of food labelling during consumer decision-making. Journal of Consumer Sciences, 40. 

  2. Temple, N. J., & Fraser, J. (2014). Food labels: a critical assessment. Nutrition, 30(3), 257-260. 

  3. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Food Labelling. 

  4. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. Product Standards. Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011.

  5. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. Product Standards. Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2020.

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