nutrition information for foods sold from bulk containers should be available at the point of purchase,5 and vendors of raw fruit, vegetables, and fish can utilize a voluntary nutrition labeling program.6
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 amended the FD&C Act to help consumers avoid health risks posed by food allergens.7 To do this, the act requires labels of FDA-regulated foods to clearly identify the food source names of all ingredients that are, or contain any protein derived from, the eight most common food allergens,8 i.e., milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. A label meets this requirement when the common or usual name of an ingredient that is a major allergen already identifies the allergen’s food source (e.g., milk, in the case of condensed milk) or when it lists the name of the food source of a major allergen (1) in parentheses following the name of the ingredient (i.e., “flour (wheat)”) or (2) immediately after or next to the list of ingredients in a “contains” statement (i.e., “Contains Milk and Eggs”).9
In addition to the above mandatory labeling components for all foods, FDA regulations sometimes require label statements such as warnings, notices, or safe handling instructions for specific commodities. For example, shell eggs must bear the safe handling instruction “SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS: To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.”10 Also, regulations of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) require country-of-origin labeling on perishable agricultural commodities (fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables), fish and shellfish, macadamia nuts, pecans, peanuts, and ginseng when sold by full-line grocers (fish markets are exempt from this requirement).11
FDA’s implementing regulations require that the common or usual name of the food be placed on the principal display panel, which is that part of the label that is most likely to be presented or examined under customary conditions of display for retail sale.12 Likewise, the net weight (or other unit of measure) must be present on the principal display panel, specifically on the bottom 30 percent of the panel.13 The remaining mandatory labeling components may be placed on either the principal display panel or the information panel, which is that part of the label immediately contiguous and to the right of the principal display panel.14 When there is insufficient space on these two panels, regulations allow for some of the mandatory information to move to other panels.
FSIS is responsible for the labeling of meat, poultry, and some egg products under the authority of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA),15 the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA),16 and the Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA). These acts require inspection programs designed to insure that meat and poultry products are, among other things, properly labeled.17 Retail package labels must include the components required for FDA-regulated foods, except for allergen information, and components specific to meat, poultry, or egg products.18 Containers of federally inspected meat and poultry products must bear a USDA inspection legend (i.e., shield) and establishment or plant number.19 The inspection legend must be placed on the principal display panel, while the establishment number may be placed within the legend or elsewhere on the container or its labeling (e.g., the lid of the can). Labels of meat and poultry products that require special handling to maintain their wholesome condition must
5 FD&C Act, Sec. 403(q)(3); 21 CFR § 101.9(j)(16).
6 FD&C Act, Sec. 403(q)(4); 21 CFR § 101.9(j)(10).
7 Title 11, Public Law 108-282, Title II.
8 FD&C Act, Sec 403(w), 21 USC § 343 et seq.
9 Available online: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm079311.htm (accessed February 25, 2011).
10 21 CFR § 101.17(h).
11 74 FR 2658 and avalable at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5074846 (accessed February 25, 2011).
12 21 CFR § 101.1. 101.2.
13 21 CFR § 101.105.
14 21 CFR §101.2.
15 21 U.S.C. 601 et seq.
16 21 U.S.C. 451 et seq.
17 58 FR 632 at 634.
18 9 CFR 317 [meat] and 9 DFR 381 [poultry].
19 9 CFR § 317(c)(5) 9 CFR § 381.123 [poultry].