Labeling Packaged Food
Determining whether food packaged in a food establishment requires labeling and how to label it properly.
When Is Food Considered Packaged?
Food is considered packaged if the food establishment bottles, cans, cartons, or securely wraps or bags the food product and makes it available for self-service. The information on the label provides general information about that packaged food product (name, ingredients, allergens, weight) that could have been provided by the food employee when it was ordered or requested. The requirement for labeling food items in a food establishment is not affected by the location of consumption of the food, whether on-premises or offsite.
Why Label Packaged Food?
Proper labeling of food allows consumers to make informed decisions about what they eat. Many consumers, as a result of an existing medical condition, may be sensitive to specific foods or food ingredients. This sensitivity may result in dangerous medical consequences should certain foods or ingredients be unknowingly consumed.
The Alaska Food Code and federal labeling regulations require the following information on every food label:
- Common or usual name of the food
- If a food product has a standard of identity, the food must meet the standard in order to be offered for sale under that product name
- All ingredients listed in descending order of predominance by weight and a complete listing of sub-ingredients. Example of a sub-ingredient: Flour (bleached wheat flour, malt barley, flour, niacin, iron, potassium thiamine, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin)
- Net contents or quantity. Dual declaration of net weight in both metric and U.S. customary system. Example: 1 lb (450 g)
- Name and address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor. If the company is not listed in the current edition of the local telephone book under the name printed on the label, the street address must also be included on the label
- Nutritional labeling (exemptions may apply for small firms)
- "Keep Refrigerated" or "Keep Frozen" (if product is perishable)
- All colors. Example: FD& C Yellow #5, FD& C Red #3. If a non-certified color, list as artificial coloring or artificial color or by their common or usual names such as "caramel coloring"
- Food Processors must include a lot # or another code that will allow production lots to be identified if the food is recalled
Food Allergen Labeling
Allergen labeling is required for packaged food products that contain any of the eight Major Food Allergens: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy. The federal act that addresses food allergies is the Food Allergen Labeling Protection Act or FALCPA.
All ingredients that contain a Major Food Allergen must be labeled, even if they are exempted from labeling by being a spice, flavoring, coloring, or incidental additive.
FALCPA requires the labeling of Major Food Allergens in one of two ways:
- In the ingredient statement include the common or usual name of the food source, followed by the name of the allergen in parentheses. For example: Ingredients: Flour (wheat), whey (milk) OR
- After the ingredient statement, place the word, "Contains:" followed by the food allergen. For example: Contains: Wheat, Milk
A nutrition facts panel may be required. Packaged foods that do not have a nutrient content claim or health claim may be exempt due to:
- Size of the business
- How food is sold, served offered for sale
- Insignificant amount of nutrients, such as spices, tea, or coffee
The nutrition facts panel includes information about the serving size, calories and key nutrients of the food. If required, place the nutrition facts at the top of the information panel.
For more information about nutrition labeling exemptions refer to the Small Business Labeling Exemption Guidance.