The claims and information on a product’s label allow customers to make informed purchasing decisions. However, consumers may not realize when choosing between a frozen veggie or sausage pizza that the information on the labels for these two similar products is actually regulated by two different government agencies.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversee labeling for food items sold in the United States. The labels on products regulated by these two entities do share many common features, such as a statement of identity, net quantity declaration, nutrition label, ingredient statement and responsible party information. However, there are some differences in the information found on their respective labels. As part one of our two-part series on the differences between USDA and FDA labeling requirements, let’s examine the overlapping product categories and how the statement of identity can vary based on which entity oversees your product type. Continue Reading

During my 30-year career in the sensory and consumer research industry, I’ve found that some of the most misused and misunderstood tests by food manufacturers are difference tests, which determine if the attributes of two food products are different. One common difference test is a triangle test, which presents panelists in a study with three different samples to taste. Two of the samples are from the same product and one is from a different product. The test determines if the panelists are able to pick out the sample of the different product from the three presented. Continue Reading

The old saying is to never judge a book by its cover, but consumers regularly judge a food item by its label. Increasingly, customers are spending more time reading every part of a product’s label before they buy it, from the claims on the front to the nutrition information to the ingredients list. Here at Mérieux NutriSciences, our Labeling Compliance & Nutrition Services team works to help food manufacturers create compliant food, menu and nutrition labels with federal regulations, including Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health Canada. Continue Reading

Programs that help retailers and restaurateurs improve the quality of their products are worth their weight in gold, but who has the budget to support them? In this era of big data, it seems that insights and monitoring programs can equate to big money, but how can these insights help improve your operations as a food manufacturer? In particular, a program that tests products early in the supply chain gives your quality assurance (QA) team time to divert a substandard product from heading into the hands of consumers and creating a loss of brand equity. Continue Reading

It’s already been a month since the menu labeling compliance date of May 7, 2018 has passed! Can you believe it? Many restaurants and food service establishment teams are breathing a sigh of relief now that their menus are compliant, but do you know what you need to focus on next regarding menu labeling? To help shed some light on menu maintenance and future trends, read my responses to the 5 key questions you may have now that the compliance date has finally come and gone.

1) How is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforcing these regulations? The FDA has said that they will be working with restaurants to make sure they are complying with menu labeling regulations accurately. However, it is unknown if the FDA will have an enforcement plan and charge fines for non-compliance in the future. Continue Reading

Supplier verification, as mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), evokes sentiments such as the Russian proverb “trust but verify” or the expression “don’t buy a pig in a poke.” Food manufacturers are now required to monitor the origins of their ingredients closer than ever before. The FSMA food supply chain program requirements expect food facilities and importers to understand the food compliance history of their suppliers. But should firms also be expected to verify the controls of their suppliers’ ingredient suppliers? Continue Reading

When you go to the store and pick up a container of strawberry yogurt, you probably don’t put much thought into how it gets its strawberry flavor. Does it contain actual strawberries or does it only contain an artificial flavor? Both natural and artificial flavors are frequently used to impart or enhance specific flavors in food products.

Before we delve into how natural and artificial flavors affect labeling, let’s look at the difference between the two. The FDA considers a natural flavor to be an additive to a product, “which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.” So, natural flavors generally come from plant or animal sources, such as the natural strawberry flavor for a yogurt. Conversely, any substance used to flavor a product that is not derived from one of the sources listed in the natural flavors definition is considered an artificial flavor by the FDA. Continue Reading

Improving nutrition for the burgeoning global population is one of today’s major public health challenges. According to the World Health Organization, millions of children suffer from undernutrition in low and middle-income countries each year, and global estimates suggest that more than 40 million children living in urban and high-income countries under five years of age are either overweight or obese. Both of these issues are considered malnutrition, as they stem from an imbalance in micro and macronutrient intake, as well as lead to high risks of subsequent disease and mortality. Continue Reading