The FDA recalls almost 100 million units of food every quarter. Prepared foods are the most recalled category at 21.7 percent, and although most of these recalls are due to contamination, mislabeling is also a significant contributing factor.
Mislabeling recalls can happen for a number of reasons. One recent example involves an undeclared allergen in ready-to-eat chicken soup products, while elsewhere, salted toffee chocolate bars were mislabeled as sea salt chocolate bars, resulting in an inaccurate ingredients listing.
Clearly, the consequences of a mislabeled allergen could be very severe, but it’s also important to reflect accurate nutritional information on a label. And while compliance may be the main driver behind this, consumers are also becoming more switched on when it comes to watching what they eat. According to Forbes, 81 percent of consumers who are watching their weight read nutritional information, as do 42 percent who are not watching their weight. Mislabeled nutritional information could damage consumer trust and lead consumers to vote with their wallet and switch to brands that have more accurate labeling.
Complying with the new FDA nutrition facts labeling requirements will certainly be a driver for most food manufacturers in ensuring that they meet those requirements by the Jan. 1, 2020, deadline.
Changes to Food Labeling
In 2016 the FDA announced the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. The purpose of the changes was to update label information and add more declarations to help consumers make better food and nutrition choices. These changes varied from increasing font sizes for calories, to adding information for new minerals, to amending nutritional information based on changed serving sizes.
The presence of any allergens also must be clear. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that all packaged food regulated under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFD&C) must comply by listing any major food allergens, and in the case of nuts and shellfish, the species must be declared.
But complying with regulations doesn’t have to be difficult. Selecting a labeling system that can streamline the process and reduce the risk of errors enables food and beverage companies to maintain quality and safety standards and reduce the number of product recalls. In fact, companies can use this as the driver to digitally transform their whole labeling process. And understanding the market challenges and compliance requirements will ensure that food and drink manufacturers have a robust, adaptable, and resilient labeling system to see them well into the future.
Barriers to Standardization
Todays’ consumer has a heightened knowledge about health as well as the environment. In terms of health, customers want to look at labels and easily see how the product contributes to their overall energy, vitamin, and fat intake. They also are especially interested in how “natural” a product is and whether it contains artificial additives.
Closely linked to this is a requirement to know where the food comes from. The greater the food miles, the greater the contribution to global warming. Consumers are keen to support more sustainable food manufacturers as well as local farmers and producers. Providing this information on food labels can be a great differentiator.
In addition, maintaining competitiveness in the marketplace is not easy, and many food manufacturers have relied on mergers and acquisitions to keep pace. However, this can result in inheriting a wide range of legacy labeling systems as well as label and direct marking printers from a variety of manufacturers.
These challenges can make it difficult to standardize the labeling process. For instance, some labeling systems support only label printers while some direct marking printer manufacturers support only their own brand of printers. Indeed, having so many isolated printers in the label and direct marking process doesn’t smooth the way for standardization, making it difficult for manufacturers to meet compliance demands let alone meet other consumer requirements.