Are Food Labels Misleading? Why Food Labels are Important

Are Food Labels Misleading? Why Proper Labeling is Important

Food labels are often misleading because companies want their products to sell, even to health-conscious consumers. They convince these people to buy highly processed and unhealthy goods by labeling them with various health claims such as “sugar-free,” “naturally sweetened,” and “low-fat.” 

Food labeling can be challenging to read, especially if the consumers are unfamiliar with any of the ingredients mentioned. 

In a study entitled “Consumer Knowledge about Food Labeling and Fraud,” over 65% of people admitted having difficulty understanding the information on food products. About 55% declared that they don’t trust the details provided by manufacturers. 

To mitigate this issue of food fraud, or the intentional deception of suppliers to consumers about the food content and quality, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated its regulations to increase oversight or enforcement of goods labeled organic. 

The USDA now requires companies to have an import certification from the department’s National Organic Program. 

Dishonest or faulty labelings will affect a brand’s image, tarnishing its reputation. Food fraud can even lead to the suspension of business’ operations. Thus, businesses must understand and comply with these regulations when creating food labels. 

Understanding Why Food Labels Are Important

Food labels are important because they inform consumers about what the products contain, guiding them on how to safely use and store the goods. They are also legal requirements and a responsibility that companies must comply with to avoid prosecution. 

Usually, food labels are located at the front, side, and back of the packages containing nutrition facts, health and nutrient claims, ingredients, allergy information, sell-by, best-by, and use-by dates. 

importance of food labels

These labels help consumers create healthier choices among several food products in the market and prevent companies from lawsuits. Misleading food labels compromise people’s well-being and the company’s standing.

By providing the necessary information on packaged foods, consumers avoid goods that may induce allergic reactions and prevent foodborne illnesses. 

Why Food Labels Are Misleading

Food labels are misleading because manufacturers often use well-crafted language and sometimes downright false claims to attract consumers as part of their sales strategies. Companies saw an opportunity to overstate their products’ benefits with the rise of health-conscious individuals amid the pandemic. 

In a recent study, about 46% of consumers admitted that they’re worried about wellness products not being genuinely healthy. About 41% said they’re concerned that the ingredients’ health benefits aren’t scientifically proven. 

misleading food labels

The results showed how food and beverage manufacturers could no longer escape their misleading food labeling practices. In 2020, about 220 lawsuits were filed against these companies by advocacy groups because of what they call deceptive marketing.

Some examples of common misleading labels with well-crafted language that companies use to attract consumers are:

  • Made with whole grains
  • No cholesterol
  • Natural
  • Low-carb
  • Fruit-flavored
  • Organic
  • Zero trans fat

Companies must be honest. They should comply with the mandated food labeling and product packaging guidelines to avoid sanctions and compromise the health and welfare of the public.

5 Important Food Labeling Guidelines to Follow

Before selling packaged and sealed goods, food and beverage manufacturers must abide by the following food labeling guidelines and requirements. Observance of these regulations prevents food recalls that may place corporations in tight spots. 

1. Food identity in package form

Food marketed in different forms, such as sliced, diced, and grated, must include its common name at the front or on the packaging’s principal display panel (PDP). For example, since Lay’s isn’t a type of food, as it’s a product name, the company must list “Potato Chips” as its identity.  

The PDP is the part of the food label that consumers most likely see when they buy the product. 

2. Manufacturer, packer, or distributor information

There are different cases and name inclusions for various merchants’ information in the labels, located in the information panel on the right side of the PDP. 

  • For corporations. In this case, only the actual corporate names are included on the front of the packaging. They may be preceded or followed by the division title involved in the production. 
  • For individuals, partnerships, or associations. In these cases, they shall use the name in which the business is held. 
  • For foods not manufactured by individuals whose names appear on the label. There must be a qualifying phrase such as “Manufactured for (insert company name),” “Distributed by (insert company name),” or other fact statements appearing with the name on the label.  

Apart from names, the place of business, including the street address, state, city, and ZIP code, must also be included in the information panel. For street addresses shown in a present city or telephone directories, companies may omit them and proceed with the other details instead. 

3. Ingredient declaration

food ingredients label

Declaring food package ingredients must be in descending order based on weight. It must also appear under the nutritional panel separately. For lack of space, they can be placed on the right side. Listing the ingredients used should start after “Ingredients.” Sub-ingredients are written down in parentheses.  

4. Net quantity of contents

The net quantity of food contents is in the label’s PDP. They must be expressed in terms of weight, fluid measure, count, or a combination, followed by “Net Weight.” This section refers to the product’s weight, excluding packaging, placed under 30% of the PDP printed horizontally. 

5. Nutrition facts and information

nutrition facts and information on food labels

Nutrition information contains details about the nutritional composition of the products, including minerals, macronutrients, nutrients, and vitamins. This section is placed on the PDP or the information panel near the ingredient declaration or statement and is governed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

According to the FDA, Nutrition Facts must include the following:

  • Serving size
  • Household measure or common household unit
  • Servings per container
  • Mandatory nutrients (iron, protein, cholesterol, calcium, sodium, potassium, vitamin D, total and added sugars, dietary fiber, calories, carbohydrates, fat, trans fat, and saturated fat.)

For consumers, understanding  food labels can be challenging. Thus, they must mind the claims on the front of the packaging, study the ingredients list, and take extra caution with serving sizes. They must also take extra precautions as manufacturers design their products and labels perfectly and include sustainability in their marketing strategy to attract customers. 

Attract Consumers with Honest Food Labels

Businesses must attract consumers to sell their products, but not at the expense of their health and well-being. With various food regulations and requirements present, manufacturers must abide by these rules to avoid sanctions and face other legal actions. It’s also their responsibility to make honest, legible, and informative labels that don’t create problems for customers. 

If you need expert consultations to gather more information regarding your business’s needs, talk to professionals from Meyers and bring your packaging solutions to life. Partner with us today, and let’s create, print, and produce sustainable and attractive labels for your products.