What Your Food Must Legally Tell You

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A person by the refrigerator in the kitchen. I'm looking at the expiration date of the product I took out of the refrigerator.

Food labels have greatly improved their honesty, clarity and standardized information over the years. In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service required brands to provide detailed information on their labels.

But what do they need to tell you now? And what is marketing and branding still hiding?

Food label structure

The FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services enforce federal food labeling laws. In addition to general nutrition labeling and ingredient lists, products must display the following:

  • Nutrition claims (e.g. “20% vitamin C”)
  • Nutrients supporting health claims (e.g., “Good source of vitamin C”)
  • Claims of “Light” or “Lite” must prove this claim on the label
  • Spices, Additional Flavors, or Additional Colors
  • any chemical preservatives
  • Whether it contains raw fruits, vegetables, or meat

regardless of Extensive labeling legislationfood companies still spend big bucks to dupe consumers with false (legal) claims.

Common false claims to watch out for include:

  • Promote whole grains and health if the item is full of sugar
  • Unrealistic serving sizes to make the calorie look low (who drinks half a can of soda?)
  • Claiming “multigrain” when the raw material is a highly processed or refined grain
  • Claiming “natural” when the finished product is full of chemicals and highly processed (a product can use the “natural” claim if it started from a natural source at one point, such as an apple) .
  • “No added sugar” can mean that the item is full of natural sugar (this is you, fruit snacks).
  • Use of sugar aliases or chemical names (dextran, malt powder, etc.)

Shop for local products at a farmers market

Homemade products are not sold to the masses and therefore do not require nutrition labeling. Consumers purchase at their own risk, knowing that these products have not been officially evaluated for ingredients, manufacturing process, safety, or nutritional content.

If you purchased a product that made you feel severely offended, you may re-file a consumer protection or personal injury claim with the seller.

Food poisoning and bacterial outbreaks most commonly come from certain types of food at farmers markets.

  • milk
  • cheese
  • fruits and vegetables
  • meat

Ordinary old fruits, vegetables, and other unprocessed items tend to come from farms. It is up to each farm to purchase product liability insurance.

If the product you purchased causes damage to you or your family, you can sue, but first consult an attorney to determine if it is worth getting back. Suppose you serve salads to people and everyone feels sick (like a wedding), it may be worth the time and money required for the case.

purchase from a restaurant

Restaurants with more than 20 locations (chain restaurants) are legally Display calorie information For each item or meal. You can view it at:

  • online or printed menu
  • menu board
  • food showcase card or label

But family-run and local restaurants don’t have to reveal the secret of how much butter goes into their delicious dishes.

Food label changes due to COVID

To eliminate supply chain disruptions and shorten delivery times as much as possible, the FDA has Label flexibility during a pandemicThis means companies can “tweak” without changing their current label.

The same goes for vending machines. Certain labels on vending machine items are given flexibility to ensure that products are delivered on time. These temporary rules will be removed after the pandemic is over and businesses are given sufficient time to update their labels.

Related resources:

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