FDA Food Labeling Guide: Design Compliant Labels

published on 17 May 2024

Creating food labels that comply with FDA regulations is crucial for meal prep services to avoid legal issues, maintain consumer trust, and prevent product recalls. This guide covers the essential elements required on food labels, including:

  • Product Name: The common or usual name that accurately identifies the product
  • Net Quantity: The amount of food in the package, expressed in weight, measure, or numerical count
  • Manufacturer Info: Name and address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor
  • Ingredient List: All ingredients listed in descending order of predominance by weight
  • Nutrition Facts: Detailed information about the product's nutritional content
  • Allergen Info: Declaration of any major food allergens present in the product

The guide also outlines the proper layout for the Principal Display Panel (front) and Information Panel (back/side), as well as additional requirements for nutrient claims, health claims, specific terms like "fresh" or "organic," and date labeling.

By following these FDA guidelines, you can create compliant food labels that provide consumers with accurate information, build trust in your brand, and ensure your meal prep service operates within legal boundaries.

Key Label Elements Requirements
Product Name Accurate, common or usual name
Net Quantity Weight, measure, or numerical count
Ingredient List Descending order by weight
Nutrition Facts Serving sizes, calories, nutrients
Allergen Info Declare major food allergens
Manufacturer Info Name and address

What You Need

To design FDA-compliant food labels, you'll need to understand the rules, access resources, know your product details, and use the right design tools.

FDA Food Labeling Rules


The FDA's guidelines for food labeling are in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 21, Part 101. You can find these rules on the FDA's website. Knowing these rules is key to making sure your labels meet FDA standards.

FDA Resources

The FDA offers several resources to help you:

  • FDA's Website (fda.gov): Access regulations, guidance documents, and more.
  • Food Labeling Guide: Outlines the requirements for food labeling.
  • FSMA Website: Provides information on food safety regulations.

Product Details

You need to know your product's ingredients, nutrition facts, and potential allergens. This information is crucial for creating accurate labels that meet FDA requirements.

Design Tools

To create compliant labels, you'll need design software. Some popular tools include:

Tool Description
Adobe Illustrator Professional design software for detailed labels
Canva User-friendly tool for simple label designs
Labeljoy Specialized software for label creation

Choose a tool that you are comfortable with and that can help you meet FDA regulations.

1. Required Label Elements

When designing a food label, there are several mandatory elements that must be included to comply with FDA guidelines. These elements provide essential information to consumers and ensure that your product meets regulatory requirements.

Product Name

The statement of identity, also known as the product name, is a crucial element on a food label. It must accurately identify the product and appear prominently on the principal display panel (PDP). The product name should be the common or usual name of the food, and if one is not available, a descriptive name that is not misleading should be used.

Net Quantity

The net quantity statement indicates the amount of food in the package, excluding the weight of the packaging itself. This information must be expressed in terms of weight, measure, or numerical count, and must appear on the PDP. For example, "Net Wt. 12 oz" or "Net Contents 32 fl oz". The net quantity statement must be in a conspicuous and easily legible format, with a minimum font size of 1/16 inch for packages with a principal display panel of 5 square inches or less.

Manufacturer Info

The manufacturer's name and address must be included on the label, typically on the information panel. This information is essential for consumers to contact the manufacturer with questions or concerns about the product.

Ingredient List

The ingredient list is a critical element on a food label, as it informs consumers about the ingredients used in the product. The list must include all ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight, and must appear on the information panel. Ingredients must be listed by their common or usual name, and may include a parenthetical statement to clarify the ingredient's function.

Nutrition Facts

The nutrition facts panel provides consumers with essential information about the nutritional content of the product. The panel must include serving sizes, calories, total fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars, and protein. Additionally, the panel may include other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.

Allergen Info

If a product contains any of the eight major food allergens (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans), an allergen declaration is required. This declaration must appear on the label in a conspicuous and easily legible format, and must identify the specific allergen present in the product.

2. Label Panel Layouts

When designing a food label, it's important to understand the different label panel layouts required by the FDA. A well-structured label ensures compliance and helps consumers find the information they need.

Main Panel

The Principal Display Panel (PDP) is the front panel of the label that consumers see first. It must contain:

  • Statement of Identity (SOI): The product name, which accurately identifies the product.
  • Net Quantity: The amount of food in the package, expressed in terms of weight, measure, or numerical count.
  • Image or Graphics: Optional, but must not obscure or distract from the required information.

The PDP should highlight the product name and net quantity with a clear and easy-to-read font.

Info Panel

The Information Panel is usually located on the back or side of the label and contains additional information about the product. It must include:

  • Ingredient List: A list of all ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight.
  • Nutrition Facts: A table providing detailed information about the product's nutritional content.
  • Allergen Declaration: If applicable, a statement indicating the presence of any of the eight major food allergens.
  • Manufacturer Information: The name and address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor.

The Information Panel should be organized clearly, with headings and subheadings to help consumers quickly find the information they need.

3. Design the Main Panel

When designing the Main Panel, also known as the Principal Display Panel (PDP), it's important to focus on clarity, prominence, and compliance with FDA rules. The PDP is the first thing consumers see, so it should make a good impression while providing necessary information.

Font Size and Style

The FDA specifies font sizes and styles to ensure that required information is easy to read. The font size should be at least one-sixteenth (1/16) inch in height based on the lowercase letter "o." Additionally, the letters should not be more than three times as high as they are wide. Use a bold, large type font for the common name and other critical information on the PDP.

Statement of Identity (SOI)

The Statement of Identity (SOI) is the product name that accurately identifies the product. It should be prominently displayed on the PDP in a clear and easy-to-read font. Ensure that the SOI is truthful and not misleading to consumers.

Net Quantity Statement

The net quantity statement should be displayed prominently on the PDP, usually below the SOI. The net quantity is the amount of food in the package, expressed in terms of weight, measure, or numerical count. Follow the FDA's guidelines for font sizes and styles when displaying the net quantity statement.

Product Branding and Visual Appeal

While complying with FDA regulations, it's important to consider product branding and visual appeal. Use a clear and concise layout to make the PDP easy to read and understand. Balance the required information with your product's branding and visual identity to create an appealing design.


4. Create the Info Panel

The Information Panel, also known as the back or side panel, contains key details about the product. This includes the ingredient list, nutrition facts, and manufacturer's name and address. Follow FDA guidelines to ensure clarity and compliance.

Ingredient List

  • Order: List ingredients in descending order by weight.
  • Font: Use a clear, easy-to-read font.
  • Names: Use common or usual names for ingredients.
  • Categories: Group similar items (e.g., spices, flavorings).

Nutrition Facts Panel

  • Layout: Follow FDA guidelines for layout and headings.
  • Content: Include serving size, servings per container, and nutrient information (e.g., calories, fat, sodium, total carbohydrates).
  • Font: Use a consistent, easy-to-read font.

Manufacturer's Name and Address

  • Placement: Usually at the bottom of the Info Panel.
  • Font: Clear and easy to read.
  • Accuracy: Ensure the information is up-to-date.

Allergen Declaration

  • Content: List any of the eight major allergens (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy).
  • Font: Clear and easy to read.
  • Placement: Include on the Info Panel for easy visibility.

5. Additional FDA Requirements

To ensure your label follows FDA rules, consider these extra requirements: nutrient content claims, health claims, specific terms, and date labeling.

Nutrient Claims

Nutrient content claims describe the level of a nutrient in a food product. These claims must meet FDA rules to avoid misbranding.

Claim Requirement
Low-fat ≤ 3g fat per serving
High-fiber ≥ 5g fiber per serving
Good source 10-19% of the Daily Value (DV)
Rich in 20% or more of the DV per serving

Health Claims

Health claims link a food or ingredient to a disease or health condition. These claims must be FDA-approved and meet specific rules.

Claim Requirement
May reduce the risk of heart disease Supported by scientific evidence and FDA-approved
May help lower cholesterol Supported by scientific evidence and FDA-approved

Specific Terms

The FDA regulates the use of terms like "fresh," "natural," and "organic." These terms must be used correctly to avoid misbranding.

Term Requirement
Fresh The product must not have been frozen, dehydrated, or preserved
Natural The product must not contain artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
Organic The product must be made with at least 95% organic ingredients

Date Labeling

Date labels indicate the shelf life of a food product. The FDA regulates the use of labels like "best by," "use by," and "sell by."

Label Requirement
Best by The product is at its peak quality and flavor
Use by The product is still safe to consume but may not be at its peak quality
Sell by The product should be sold by this date to ensure quality

6. Review and Finalize

Now that you've designed your food label, it's time to review and finalize it to ensure it meets all FDA requirements. This step helps avoid costly revisions and potential fines.

Conduct a Thorough Review

Use a compliance checklist to ensure your label meets all FDA regulations. Check for:

  • Accuracy and completeness of required elements (product name, net quantity, ingredient list, nutrition facts, allergen information).
  • Compliance with FDA guidelines for font sizes, formatting, and placement of mandatory elements.

Seek Professional Guidance

If you're unsure about any part of your label design, consider consulting a regulatory expert or labeling consultant. They can help identify potential issues and ensure your label meets all FDA requirements.

Make Necessary Adjustments

Based on your review, make any needed adjustments to your label design. Ensure all changes are accurately reflected and that you have supporting documentation for any claims or statements made on the label.

Finalize Your Label Design

Once all adjustments are made, finalize your label design. Ensure it is easy to read, understand, and complies with all FDA regulations. A well-designed label is key to the success of your meal prep service business.


Designing food labels that follow FDA rules is important for meal prep service businesses. It helps you stay legal and build trust with customers. By following FDA guidelines, you can make labels that show your products clearly and meet all standards.

Keep up with FDA rules to avoid costly changes and fines. Use official FDA resources for the latest guidelines and make sure your labels meet all requirements. A good label helps you avoid legal issues and builds customer trust.

A compliant food label is key to your business's success. Focus on accuracy, completeness, and following the rules to make your products stand out and attract loyal customers.

For more details on FDA food labeling rules, visit the FDA website or talk to a regulatory expert. By putting effort into making compliant labels, you can protect your business and customers while building a strong reputation in the industry.


Are allergens required to be listed on food packaging?

Yes, food labels must identify all major food allergens used in the product. This includes:

Allergen Type Examples
Nuts Almonds, pecans, walnuts, coconut
Fish Bass, flounder, Pollock
Crustacean Shellfish Lobster, shrimp, crab

If an ingredient's common name already identifies the allergen (e.g., buttermilk), it meets this requirement.

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