Food labeling serves two purposes, and the first is to serve the legal requirement as required by the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006, which governs all rules and regulations related to foods. The second purpose is to inform the customer about the contents of the packaged food, the manufacturing date, and the shelf life of the product.
Food labeling is the printed information that contains the name of the product, the manufacturing company’s name, address, logo, etc. It also contains ingredients, additives, colors, preservatives, flavors, etc., used in the product. The label also has the FSSAI logo, Batch number, Code No. Mfg. & Exp. Date, License No, Logo, Veg & Non-Veg marks, etc. Also, important nutritional information has to be placed to make an informed choice about the product’s value for them.
One important aspect of food labeling for consumers is nutritional information. Nutritional information informs the consumers about the number of proteins, carbohydrates, sugar, fats, vitamins, minerals, and calories. The nutritional content can be displayed as a grid or as a panel and is placed either on the side of the packaged food container or at the back of the packaging. The displayed nutritional value can help consumers decide which foods will help them for their nutrient and health needs.
Food labeling has to follow certain norms and rules, and it cannot be haphazard. Attention has to be paid to the font size of the product name, the manufacturing date, and the ‘lot or batch number.’ The ‘best before’ and ‘Use by date’ must be placed following the FSS Act 2006. Food labeling also provides consumers with instructions on how to use the product. Certain food products like wheat, rice, pickles, etc., and single-ingredient foods do not need to mention any nutritional values.
Some foods require specific labeling requirements like infant milk substitutes and infant foods. Food products like edible oils and fats also require specific labeling requirements. All containers of infant milk substitute or infant food need to have this declaration IMPORTANT NOTICE: MOTHER’S MILK IS BEST FOR YOUR BABY” besides other requirements, this label also needs to be placed on the label, “Warning: “Infant milk substitute or infant food is not the sole source of nourishment of an infant” has to be mentioned on the label.
While it is important to mention all the above on the food labels, certain information cannot be mentioned. Any statement or design of the label that misinforms or misleads a consumer about the nutrition value or quantity is prohibited by law. False food labeling can endanger the consumer’s health if not labeled correctly, like in infant food products or products used for special dietary needs or for people who have allergies. Food labeling norms are given in detail in the FSSAI (Packaging & Labelling) Regulations, 2011.