Food Laws

Food Labels – often misleading and don’t convey ingredient info.

The internationally accepted definition of a food label is any tag, brand, mark, pictorial or other descriptive matter, written, printed, stencilled, marked, embossed or impressed on, or attached to, a container of food. Food labelling includes any written, printed or graphic matter that is present on the label, accompanies the food, or is displayed near the food, including that for the purpose of promoting its sale or disposal. People look at food labels for a variety of reasons. But whatever the reason, many consumers would like to know how to use this information more effectively and easily.

To address concerns about confusing labels, the FDA issued a report in 2016 recommending that consumers not rely on product names, pictures on the packing, or the taste of the product to determine what it contains but instead examine the ingredient list. FDA concedes that its labelling requirements for front of packages… do not clearly convey product and ingredient information to consumers. For example:

  1. If you’re digging into a bowl of cereal that has the word “maple” on the package, and even images of maple leaves, you may think you’re eating a product that contains maple syrup. But not so fast—the taste may come from added flavors.
  2. The same goes for the lemon drink you’ve made from a package picturing fresh lemons. You probably think it was made with lemons, but it may be flavored with natural or artificial lemon flavor.

In 2019, FDA analyzed federal law for drinks that contain or purport to contain juice by using LexisNexis and FDA’s Web site, identified top-selling children’s “juice” drinks in fruit punch flavors, gathered labels in store and online, and extracted data from the principal display and information panels. The conclusion of study stated that, “Principal display panels rendered it difficult to differentiate among product types, identify those with added sweeteners, and distinguish healthier products. Revised labeling regulations are warranted to support public health.”

Read more at AJPH and US FDA