Labels of food products sold in most parts of the world carry essential product information. In the U.S., a legal label for FDA-regulated foods consists of the principal display panel (PDP) and the information panel. The PDP is the front label panel read by the consumer and it bears the statement of identity or the common or usual name of the food, and the net weight.
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Explore this issueApril/May 2019
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The information panel is the panel immediately to the right of the PDP, and in 1990 included only the ingredient statement, Nutrition Facts panel, and the responsibility statement. The ingredient statement lists the ingredients used in product manufacturing in their decreasing order of predominance by weight. Nutrition Facts labels are required on most foods to declare the mandatory nutritional components unless additional nutrients are claimed. The responsibility statement gives the name of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor, and its street address or phone number. There are other requirements for food labeling compliance in the U.S. that will not be covered here.
The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 mandated a standardized Nutrition Facts panel and defined terminologies for certain health claims or nutrient content claims. Further modifications to the food label occurred thereafter, including the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 that required the declaration of one or more of the eight most common allergens if present.
In 2016, the first major revision of the Nutrition Facts label was promulgated to improve its ease of use in helping consumers make food choices based on new scientific information. All these label changes left the responsibility statement intact because FDA did not consider it as directly affecting the health of the consumer or the consumer’s understanding of the nutritional information.
Responsibility Statement and Misbranding
The food label can help the consumer make informed decisions about the relationship of food to their health and wellness. This function is evident in the name of the food, how much food is in the package, the ingredients used to manufacture the food, the allergen warning, and the Nutrition Facts panel, but is not intuitively obtained from the responsibility statement, whose purpose is to allow the consumer to find and contact the responsible manufacturer, distributor, or packer.