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U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition
A Food Labeling Guide
September, 1994 (Editorial revisions June, 1999)

A Food Labeling Guide

Table of Contents

    Why a Food Labeling Guide?
  1. General Food Labeling Requirements
  2. Name of Food
  3. Net Quantity of Contents Statements
  4. Ingredient Lists
  5. Nutrition Labeling
  6. Claims
  7. Miscellaneous
    Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling
    Key Word Index
    Additional FDA Assistance

    Food Labeling CFR References

Why a Food Labeling Guide?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for assuring that foods sold in the United States are safe, wholesome and properly labeled. This applies to foods produced domestically, as well as foods from foreign countries. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act are the Federal laws governing food products under FDA's jurisdiction.

The FDA receives many questions from manufacturers, distributors, and importers about the proper labeling of their food products. This booklet is a summary of the required statements that must appear on food labels under these laws and their regulations. To help minimize legal action and delays, it is recommended that manufacturers and importers become fully informed about the applicable laws and regulations before offering foods for distribution in the United States.

The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which amended the FD&C Act requires most foods to bear nutrition labeling and requires food labels that bear nutrient content claims and certain health messages to comply with specific requirements. Although final regulations have been established and are reflected in this booklet, regulations are frequently changed. It is the responsibility of the food industry to remain current with the legal requirements for food labeling. All new regulations are published in the Federal Register prior to their effective date and compiled annually in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Summaries of new regulations (proposed regulations and final regulations) are posted on the FDA's Internet Website.

In a booklet such as this, it is impractical to attempt to answer every food labeling question that might arise. The most frequently raised questions have been addressed using a "question and answer" format. We believe the vast majority of food labeling questions are answered. They are grouped by the food labeling feature of concern. The Table of Contents will help you locate your food labeling area of interest. The "Key Word Index" will also be helpful in locating specific food labeling concerns.

Under FDA's laws and regulations, label approval is not required to import or distribute a food product. Questions concerning the labeling of food products may be directed to:

Division of Programs and Enforcement Policy (HFS-155)
Office of Food Labeling
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Food and Drug Administration
200 C Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20204
Telephone (202) 205-5229

The "Food Labeling Questions and Answers", the "Food Labeling Questions and Answers Volume II" and the "Small Business Food Labeling Exemption" are available in the "food" section of FDA's Internet Website. These are invaluable companions to this "Food Labeling Guide" and were developed specifically to address, in detail, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act requirements.

The regulation numbers referenced for each question in this booklet identify FDA regulations in Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR). Information on ordering FDA's regulations and other food labeling publications appears in Additional FDA Assistance.

September, 1994 (Editorial revisions June, 1999)

This document was issued in September 1994 and last revised in June, 1999.
For more recent information on Food Labeling

Food Labeling and Nutrition
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