The regulations governing meat and poultry products are extensive and quite complicated. These regulations fall under the jurisdiction of the USDA, which is responsible for assuring that meat, poultry and egg products are safe for consumption and properly labeled and packaged.
While the laws and regulations governing labeling can seem a bit daunting, don’t let that discourage you. In my experience, the following are the most important things you’ll need to know in order to keep your label in compliance.
All labels should contain the following mandatory information:
These mandatory disclosures must be displayed on either the Principal Display Panel (PDP) or the Information Panel.
The PDP is the part of the label most likely to be seen when sitting on the shelf. The Information Panel is the panel immediately to the right of the PDP.
Unless you plan on using a pre-approved generic label, you must submit a sketch of the label for approval.
All meat and poultry products must be identified by a product name on the PDP. If a standard of identity exists for the product, the standard must be listed as the product name. If no standard exists, then it must be listed by a common or usual name.
An ingredients statement is required when a product contains two or more ingredients. Ingredients must be listed by their common or usual names in descending order of predominance by weight.
Flavorings, spices and preservatives must be listed on the ingredient statement.
A product may only make an express or implied claim about the level of a nutrient in a food if it has been approved in the regulations. Products that make claims not approved are considered misbranded and subject to USDA enforcement action.
I’m sure you’ve thought about looking at a competitor’s label and copying certain information, but how do you know their label is correct? I don’t know how many times I’ve had clients tell me “well, I just copied it from another label” without actually spending the time to see if the label was done right in the first place.
The USDA can be forgiving, especially to new food businesses, but if your response is “I didn’t bother doing the work,” they aren’t going to treat you very kindly. In fact, they will probably make sure you learn you lesson by imposing the harshest penalty allowed under the law so you don’t do it again.
Looking at another product label isn’t forbidden, actually it can provide some good guidance in terms of placement or formatting styles. But remember, don’t rely on someone else’s label as a substitute for doing the work on your own.
Labeling compliance is critical for your food business. Not only can the USDA bring an enforcement action against you for violating labeling regulations, but you can expose yourself to lawsuits from angry consumers and/or ambulance chasing lawyers looking to make a quick buck shaking down entrepreneurs.
Certain lawyers and law firms recently started targeting food businesses with lawsuits for labeling violations. Just do a quick search online and you can find countless lawsuits filed by these vultures. Everything from not properly listing ingredients to improperly claiming a product is healthy for you.
Take the time now to learn the basic labeling rules in order to minimize the potential risks to your business.
If you want to learn more about labeling your meat or poultry product, please view our course Labeling Your Meat and Poultry Products: USDA Labeling Basics.
The course is only available as StartupFoodBiz.com.
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