Evolving industry regulations, requirements, and customer preferences continue to complicate food and beverage labeling. From complying with broad-sweeping reforms designed to better inform end consumers to preparing for pending regulations, it’s more important than ever before for manufacturers to have an agile labeling environment to meet today’s requirements and quickly respond to those that will be required in the future. And because the stakes are high—inaccurate labeling of a known allergen represents a serious health risk—these labeling environments need to rely on systems that minimize manual processes in favor of labeling accuracy. Here’s a closer look at just a few of the labeling changes impacting food and beverage labels.
According to FDA’s 5th Annual Reportable Food Registry (May 2016), undeclared allergens topped the recall cause list, accounting for 47 percent of U.S. food recalls in FY15. In an effort to help consumers avoid the risks posed by food allergens, and to help manufacturers avoid recalls, Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). Before FALCPA, labels for food containing two or more ingredients were required to list all ingredients by their usual names. The issue was that some of the ingredients did not clearly identify their food source, making it extremely difficult for consumers to determine the presence of allergens.
Today, FALCPA requires that the food source names of all ingredients be prominently displayed if they are included in one of eight FALCPA defined major food allergen groups: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy beans. Failure to follow FALCPA can result in life or death situations for consumers and damaging, costly recalls and other legal issues for food and beverage manufacturers.
And the U.S. isn’t the only country making significant changes that impact food and beverage labeling. The European Union (EU) recently passed regulation 1169/2011, which guarantees consumers’ rights to adequate information by establishing general food labeling principles, requirements, and responsibilities for the foods they consume.
The regulation, which became mandatory on Dec. 13, 2016, mandates stylistic highlighting of the following 14 allergens when they appear in an ingredient list: molluscs, eggs, fish, peanuts, sulphur dioxide and sulphites, mustard, soybeans, milk, crustaceans, celery, lupin, sesame seeds, cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, or their hybridized strains), and nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios, macadamias, Queensland nuts).
So, how do food manufacturers stay ahead of mounting allergen regulations? One of the best ways to do so is by using a barcode labeling software that has the ability to tag or track allergens. For example, CODESOFT, a barcode labeling solution by TEKLYNX, includes a new “Tagged Texts Management” feature. The feature allows users to tag (bold) allergen words whenever they appear in an ingredient list. Once an allergen is tagged, it is automatically logged into a database so the same format can be applied to allergen data in multiple languages, ensuring food labels comply with requirements globally.
In addition to identifying allergens, barcode labeling software plays an important role in recall prevention because it increases label accuracy. The software itself significantly reduces the room for human error throughout the labeling process, increasing labeling accuracy and lessening the chance of a recall. And, should a recall be initiated, the software helps manufacturers identify the products labeled with specific lot numbers to more accurately pinpoint impacted products, reducing the time required to expedite the recall.
According to a recent Nielsen survey, 72 percent of beer drinkers think it’s important to read nutritional labels when buying beverages. As a result, the Beer Institute recently announced the Brewers’ Voluntary Disclosure Initiative to add nutrition facts, an ingredients list, and freshness dating to beer bottle and can labels.