Labeling Rules & Regulations

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    Incomplete Product Labeling Leads to Recalls

    Are Your Product Labels Up to Date?

    Product labeling is one of the major regulatory necessities any food or beverage producer has to check off when getting products to market. If you make an omission from an ingredients listing or fail to affix a mandated safety label, the result could be a lengthy and costly recall process. When laying out your product labels, you should be mindful of every piece of information consumers are required to know.

    To show what happens when brands fail to live up to these standards, here is a list of recent recalls due to omissions or inaccuracies on product labels:

    Incomplete Listings Bring Recalls

    There are several circumstances that can lead to a product recall. For instance, goods that may be contaminated by unintended ingredients or outside substances are frequently pulled from shelves. This listing will focus only on recalls based on label contents, however. This shows that even if a product itself is manufactured correctly and up to standards, a failure to get the packaging right can still cause a full-scale recall effort.

    1. Gerber Baby Food NBC affiliate KTLX recently reported on Gerber's recall of one of its many baby food products. The item in question, Cheese Ravioli Pasta Pick-Ups, does not disclose the presence of egg allergens as required. The producer's mistake was subtle: Egg does appear on the list of ingredients, but is not present on a "contains" list designed to disclose potential allergens. In worst case scenarios, the product could cause an allergic reaction in people sensitive to eggs who aren't alerted to the ingredient's presence, hence the recall.

    2. Whiskey Hill Jerky The United States Department of Agriculture announced a recall of Whiskey Hill Smokehouse, LLC's jerky products. As with the Gerber situation, these items contain an undisclosed allergen. In Whiskey Hill's case, however, the ingredient is soy instead of egg. This example shows just how wide a swath of products can be recalled, as the order hits jerky made from beef, venison and ostrich meat.

    3. Sunshine Bakery Cakes Sometimes, brands snap into action before a federal agency demands a recall. According to an FDA release issued through US Recall News, Sunshine Bakery decided to voluntarily call back two of its cake varieties - the cassava cake and the mixed nut mooncake. As with the above issues, the problem here is an undisclosed allergen or, rather, several. Sunshine's products contain peanut, coconut, almond and cashew allergens. Some of the recalled items additionally include sunflower seeds.

    4. Picone Meat Specialties In today's final example, 5,750 pounds of salami are going back to Picone Meat Specialties, LTD. The USDA recall is because of the presence of non-fat dry milk. The USDA's statement on this action shows the process behind an agency-mandated recall. The Food Safety and Inspection Service, a division of the USDA, performed a check of Picone's salami and found that there were undisclosed ingredients present. The recall was a direct result due to the fact that non-fat dry milk is one of the FSIS's known allergens.

    Keep Up with Product Labeling

    Clearly, you don't want to end up in one of the situations described above. Avoiding the challenging logistics of recalling 5,000 pounds of salami - or anything else - should be a top priority. When working on label design, you should carefully review them to ensure small mistakes don't end up costing your business time and money.

    Considering the changes coming to food rules in the immediate future, labeling for your products should be on your mind right now even before taking recall risks into consideration. Updated nutrition facts listing rules are coming in the years ahead, meaning you have yet another regulatory compliance hurdle to jump. For all these challenges, however, some elements of the labeling process can be easy - provided you work with the right third party.

    Lightning Labels can be a valuable partner for a small or medium-sized food or beverage producer, offering quick turnaround times and small minimum order sizes. The latter fact may prove especially helpful in the years ahead. Changes to regulations are fairly common, and brands that are forced to order large amounts of product labels at once may end up with noncompliant and unusable labels once new rules pass. Low minimums also leave brands free to redesign their packaging often to let their look change with the seasons.

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  • The Latest Food Labeling Terminology Battles

    Choosing Your Messaging Carefully

    When it comes to labeling your food and beverage products, making claims about their content is a delicate matter. The motivation behind promoting nutritional value is clear: Consumers today are interested in eating healthy, and the right suggestion might win them over. However, you'll have to be ready to back your claims up. When companies overstep what they're allowed to promote, they tend to end up in legal trouble. Which particular words are regulated for use in packaging tends to change over time - this, too, is something you'll have to keep an eye on.

    Below are a few examples of what can happen when a company makes a claim that doesn't convince consumers. These stories show the value of getting onto solid footing with your promises of nutritional value.

    The Battle Over '100%'

    What does it mean to be 100 percent Parmesan cheese? This strange question is at the center of a current legal case covered by Law360. The source pointed out that food production giant Kraft is a defendant in this case, along with Target, Safeway and more. Grated Parmesan cheese is the item in question. The arguments in the case are based on what exactly that percentage entails when it's on a label. The plaintiffs state that it's a false promise to contain no other ingredients. The defense has countered that it means 100 percent grated and 100 Parmesan, with no other varieties of cheese.

    As the case continues, the FDA has made its presence felt, if only indirectly. Defense attorneys say the agency previously approved the product's use of cellulose, but the plaintiffs believe the previous standard is not relevant to the current case. They claim the FDA approval is just based on the process behind aging the cheese, rather than its labeling in the final form. The case is ongoing, so it's unclear where it is going.

    What Can 'Skim Milk' Be?

    The Associated Press noted another labeling-based case, this time based on the use of the words "skim milk." A small creamery in Florida was forced to defend its use of the term against the Florida Department of Agriculture. The news provider noted that a new federal appeals court ruling has sided with the dairy rather than the government agency, overturning a previous case. The crux of the issue is whether milk without added Vitamin A, can be called "skim."

    The AP explained that the creamery, which focuses on natural products without additives, didn't want to augment the milk with the vitamin. It also found the state agency's demand - that it calls its product "imitation" skim milk - unacceptable. It's easy to see that such a suggestion could seriously undercut the authority of a brand targeting consumers who like natural items. The Department of Agriculture's case revolved around the legal meaning of skim milk as a product augmented to the nutritional value of whole milk, in defiance of the dictionary definition of "skim milk," which is just milk separated from cream.

    Choosing Your Claims Carefully

    What kinds of promises do you want to make about your products? Seeing reports on cases such as the above should act as ample warning to study precedent and stay away from suggestions that could land your brand in trouble. Once you've decided on safe and accurate descriptions for your products, it's time to print up visually arresting labels.

    Working with a provider such as Lightning Labels can give your product packaging the fidelity it needs to stand out on the shelves, with the text and imagery describing your products presented clearly. Shoppers will be interested in what you have to say, so once you've made your decision, you should find a capable partner to print up your promises on compelling Custom food labels.

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  • Custom Cosmetic Labels - Going Beyond FDA Rules to Inform Cosmetics Customers

    Custom Cosmetic Labels Capture the Trust of Your Audience

    When cosmetics are your main product, establishing a trust-based relationship with your customers is an important element of securing your future. After all, customers who abandon your brand after one purchase aren't likely to sustain the company for any significant length of time. You need strong bonds with shoppers, an audience of consumers who feel well-served by your products and will therefore continue using them for years. This is the recipe for reliable revenue, and it can all begin with met expectations.

    Go Beyond FDA Requirements

    While the FDA does regulate some of the elements of cosmetics labeling, there are terms and promises you can employ without the department's approval. Of course, you should still be very careful with your deployment of these descriptors to ensure a bond of trust persists between you and your customers. Someone who feels misled by the promises on a label isn't likely to come back.

    The American Academy of Dermatology recently released a report through Science Daily specifying areas where shoppers may end up feeling deceived by cosmetics manufacturers. Ensuring your brand's bath and body packaging is straightforward and clear in these areas can set you head-and-shoulders above brands that take advantage of the lack of regulation to overuse the terms and deceive shoppers.

    For instance, dermatologist Rajani Katta stated in the AAD article that there is a glut of current brands using the term "all-natural." She added that this is not a meaningful descriptor in skin care, as there are plenty of elements that come from nature but don't help the body at all. Furthermore, combining basic ingredients with preservatives is a common practice in the beauty product field. If consumers catch on to brands deceiving them with such labels, they may become jaded. Your options with this label include using it only when it's absolutely truthful or simply avoiding it as overuse saps it of meaning.

    Katta added that when products say they are suitable for sensitive skin, there is no authority forcing them to prove this. In the absence of an FDA rule, your bond with customers should guide your use of such claims. If you place such a promise on a cosmetic product that then goes on to aggravate skin, you could lose the trust of consumers.

    What the FDA Can Regulate

    The fact that there are cosmetics brands taking liberties with labeling is worrying, as it may lessen trust in the bath and body industry as a whole. The agency isn't completely toothless, however. In late 2016, law firm Shook Hardy and Bacon LLP released a Lexology article about a wave of warning letters issued by the FDA to counteract dishonest use of claims on beauty product labels.

    It's interesting to see what types of marketing copy are unacceptable under current guidelines. For instance, the warning letters made a point of targeting brands that boast about the "age defying" nature of their products. Furthermore, items that claim to minimize lines, wrinkles and spots on skin received letters. Medical claims are also shaky ground: Companies that say their offerings can regenerate tissue, produce collagen, act as a surgery alternative or provide other healing and anti-inflammatory benefits have been given warnings.

    The law firm explained that the line between beautifying agents and medical products is the current boundary for the FDA's authority. The agency is becoming aggressive about items that claim to be the latter, with enforcement seemingly more strict than in the past. Companies that walk this line should ensure they aren't overstepping their authority.

    Custom Cosmetic Label Excellence

    When creating bath and body packaging, the content is only one element to think about. You also have to consider the physical quality of the labels, paying heed to resolution, materials and finishes. If you work with substances that aren't strong enough to withstand storage in consumers' bathrooms, your items' packaging may end up worn down, with your carefully designed logo unrecognizable by the time consumers have used up the products and are ready to buy more. The way to avoid this fate, and to combine high-quality imagery with tough and attractive labels, is to work with a third party such as Lightning Labels. Lightning Labels offers a wide variety of waterproof materials and finishes that will keep your accurate and compelling bath and body product labels looking great, no matter where customers store the items.

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  • The Importance of 'Not for Kids' Custom Warning Labels on Your Cannabis Products

    Keep Kids Safe With Custom Warning Labels For Cannabis Products

    The founding of a whole new industry is an exciting time. With every business idea seemingly tried, this phenomenon has become very rare. The legal cannabis market is the exception that proves the rule.

    If you're striking into this evolving space, then you already know the importance of staking your place with great products and compelling packaging. However, there are a few important restrictions to keep in mind as you set up your legal cannabis business. For instance, you need to ensure your products sport clear custom warning labels to indicate that they are for adult consumption only.

    Laws Require Labels

    Where legal recreational marijuana goes, related products follow. Cannabis-based snacks are one of the most popular derivatives, and also one of the most likely to be accidentally ingested by kids, mistaking them for regular candy or brownies. As The Observer recently reported, Washington state-based businesses now have to apply "not for kids" warning labels to any edible cannabis products they sell. This includes drinks infused with pot and also covers topical ointments that are applied to the skin instead of eaten.

    The logo is mandated by the state and cannot be changed except to modify its size. That freedom to resize the warning has its limits, too, as it can't be smaller than three-fourths inch by one-half inch. The law in this state appears to be based on actual cases of accidental ingestion, as The Observer reported cases of increased emergency calls related to children eating pot-infused products.

    Of course, the fact that this is a Washington law instead of a national rule shows off one of the peculiarities of the cannabis industry. There is a patchwork of rules and regulations across the country, and it will only expand as more states allow sales. You have to both study the laws on the books for your state and be prepared to change with the times as more restrictions and stipulations pass.

    One potential winning strategy to cope with an evolving legal situation is to get ahead of the curve. Even if your state doesn't mandate "not for kids" warning labels, implementing it willingly could be a great way to show the community that you care about children's health and want to make sure your items are only used by people who are old enough.

    A Partner That Can Evolve

    When you're deeply invested in a young, changing industry, it pays to work with labeling partners that are flexible and agile. Having to order huge quantities of cannabis labels could leave you stuck with stock you can't use due to regulatory changes passed in the interim. Lightning Labels' all-digital processes enable low minimum order sizes and lightning-fast turnaround times, letting you keep up with the torrid pace of the developing legal cannabis market.

    As the industry inevitably changes, with labeling laws evolving from state to state - and potentially at the federal level - you need to keep pace. In matters such as cannabis warning labels, it may even pay to be ahead of the curve. Lightning Labels is the ally you need to take this perspective.

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  • Grocery Giants Get on Board with "Best if Used By" Label

    New Labeling Rule Seeing Attention

    If you produce food or beverage products, you likely employ some sort of expiration date to tell when customers how long the items stay at maximum freshness. However, the way you present that information may be very different from other organizations that sell that type of product - at least for now. Out of concern that unclear and inconsistent labeling is causing food waste, industry groups have launched efforts to standardize these dates.

    When this story was last in the news, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was promoting a new approach which would center the whole industry around a "best if used by" label instead of the divergent phrases currently in use. Now, more than a month has passed, and major organizations seem poised to take the USDA up on its suggestion.

    The Grocery Industry Acts

    According to Produce Grower, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association are spearheading a voluntary program under which food producers will employ "best if used by" labels in all cases except when an item becomes dangerous after a certain date. In those rare cases, there will be a "use by" label, containing a date when the item in question should be discarded. The groups hope to have the new wording in place by mid-2018, which means companies should start implementing it in production as soon as possible.

    The GMA and FMI are touting positive industry reactions to their move, according to Produce Grower. Frank Yiannis, Wal-Mart's vice president of food safety and health, issued a supportive statement, as did Dean Foods Vice President of Quality Jack Jeffers. These executives praised the simplicity of having a united system, as well as the potential to prevent food waste that such a standard might bring about - consumers who are less confused about whether food has gone bad will be less likely to throw away items that are still usable, as the theory goes.

    The two organizations pointed out that there are currently over 10 ways to give a freshness date. This overabundance of information is sure to confuse at least some consumers.

    Looking back at the FDA announcement

    Though the FMI and GMA describe their program as voluntary, it takes many of its cues from the FDA suggestions. In December, Food Processing reported on the FDA's guidance regarding the "best if used by" label. The agency did note that there are no actual regulations about how to label food expiration. There is one type of package where such labels are mandatory - infant formula does currently have laws regarding use by dates.

    Food Processing noted that testing and thought went into the selection of the words "best if used by." Rather than being a mandatory choice from among the many styles of expiration dates in use, the phrase was picked because it was found to be the least likely to lead to food waste. The word "best" shows that its a marker of quality rather than safety, and "used by" eliminates ambiguity about the fact it is aimed at consumers rather than retailers.

    Time to Update Labels

    The announcement of the FSI and GMA standard has given a sense of urgency to the shift to a new labeling style. With the organizations stating that producers should switch things up as soon as possible, it's a clear indication that you should make sure your very next batch of product labels has the new phrasing. Working with a reliable and fast label provider such as Lightning Labels makes such changes of direction not just possible but simple. Low minimum order sizes ensure that even if you produce niche items, you don't need large quantities of outdated labels lying around. Quick shifts in style become achievable.

  • Pressed for Space, Digital Disclosure May Be Next for Labels

    Design Challenges Present Themselves

    If you're responsible for your brand's label design, you've probably encountered a vexing problem: There's simply too much relevant information to squeeze onto a product label comfortably. There are a few categories of info you have to include, some of which are required by law. Combining this content with your branding and visual design elements is a true balancing act.

    Transparency Meets Technology

    A recent Food Safety Tech interview with Dagan Xavier, co-founder of data science firm Label Insight, delved into a possible answer to the problem of content overload on product labels: SmartLabel digital technology, meaning users receive a base amount of info on the item itself, with the option of going online for the rest.

    Though this idea seems drastic at first, Xavier pointed out that there is widespread acceptance of and support for the initiative, with 79 percent of consumers likely to use it and 44 percent actually trusting companies more if they sign on. The development of SmartLabel is therefore worth watching, as it could help tip the balance between helpful design elements and necessary nutrition information.

    The move toward complete online labeling is simultaneously a way for companies to clear space on their labels and an opportunity for consumers to see more comprehensive ingredient data than ever before. Xavier pointed out that the practice of listing all of an item's components on its label may be downright impossible in some cases. Given the unlimited space of a web portal, manufacturers can get very granular and transparent about what their items contain, potentially courting consumer trust instead of endangering it.

    Tracking the GMO Label

    The rise of augmented labels such as SmartLabel will likely prove especially important for companies that use genetically-modified ingredients in their foods and beverages. The Department of Agriculture, currently finalizing its rules for GMO labeling nationwide, is set to allow disclosure via either phone or SmartLabel, according to Farm Bureau News contributor Robert Giblin.

    As Giblin added, the final requirements for GMO labeling will be sorted out by the middle of 2018. In the meantime, companies should be getting ready to comply with the rules from day one. The possibility of using augmented labels with a phone number or SmartLabel QR code is sure to be controversial in some quarters, but it does promise a great deal of design freedom. Furthermore, if the SmartLabel standard becomes more widely used, its inclusion in the GMO bill will seem natural.

    Be Ready to Adapt

    The challenges of ingredient labeling and disclosure dissipate when companies work with quick and responsive labeling partners. This is the kind of advantage you gain from Lightning Labels, which uses all-digital methods to ensure quick turnaround times, high-quality imagery and low minimum order sizes.

    Quick response to orders and low minimums are key differentiators in industries where labeling norms and standards are changing quickly. If you can get your labels quickly, and won't be forced into ordering too many, you can shift along with regulations, staying in compliance and ahead of the curve without being stuck with large quantities unusable and outdated labels.

    When you get high-quality labels from Lightning Labels, you already have an advantage in disclosure of ingredients, as you can print small yet legible text and save space on your products. Your design sense won't be compromised, and you'll be free to cover the front of packages with bold and appealing imagery and logos, the kinds of elements that draw shoppers' eyes immediately. Product labels that are compliant and up to date while still packing a visual punch are a valuable commodity for your brand.

  • Looking at the Road Ahead for Food Labeling

    Eyes on Upcoming Changes

    If you operate in the food manufacturing industry, your product labels change every few years. Even if you decide to stay aesthetically consistent, there are shifting regulations to comply with. In a way, these new rules are a good thing. If you have to switch up the way you list ingredients, nutrition facts and more, these enforced changes serve as great reminders to change other parts of your label designs and keep them fresh. Provided you have a helpful and capable third party handing your labeling needs, making periodic adjustments is a good approach to design.

    Now, with 2017 just underway, it's time to think about which requirements and rules are likely to either change this year or at least move toward new drafts. Will the new administration in Washington enforce new national laws, or roll them back? Or will the wheels set in motion in years past turn uninterrupted? Will states work on individual standards? Will industry-specific or overarching guidelines prove more influential this year? These questions and more will set the scene for 2017.

    Looking Back and Awaiting Guidance

    A Lexology article from law firm McGuireWoods LLP predicted the major themes affecting food and beverage labeling, explaining that legal action against labels has picked up. With the FDA considering new rules for when "natural" and "healthy" apply to products, some of the class actions have been set aside until the federal agency makes its recommendations. However, there are plenty of cases ongoing. The law firm pointed to appellate courts as the site of a significant amount of labeling-related legal wrangling.

    When it comes to concepts that will be ruled on in 2017, possibly leading to new rules or standards, McGuireWoods LLP suggested that trans fats, the word "craft," claims that items were "made in the U.S.A." and more could be the hot topics. The source explained that similar cases filed in the recent past could work their way up to the supreme court, yielding judgments that set precedent for the food and beverage industries.

    As for labeling issues to watch outside the legal system, the law firm pointed to two of the most popular recent sagas ongoing in the food and beverage industry. These are the passage of national GMO labeling rules and the FDA's ongoing quest for consistency and clarity when it comes to making claims on packages. It may seem redundant to watch these cases - you may have gotten downright sick of them in 2016 - but it pays not to look away. These guidelines might be very relevant for your next packaging revision.

    Restricting Waste

    Another rule that has previously drawn attention, but will remain relevant in the year ahead, is the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service's new guidance on expiration dates. Columbus Dispatch columnist Lisa Abraham explained that this is one of the "buzz" topics affecting food manufacturers at the moment, as it standardizes information that has never had universal guidelines before. For every type of product except baby formula, the introduction of standard language and a regular dating approach is a new wrinkle.

    The overall goal behind the program is reducing food waste, encouraging consumers not to throw away items that are still safe. The steps toward this objective include the uniform use of the term "best if used by," which makes it clear that the date is a measure of optimal quality, rather than safety. The USDA performed testing and determined that "best if used by" is the most likely phrase to elicit this kind of response from consumers.

    Abraham noted that the numbers indicate waste by consumers is a major overall cause of food going uneaten, and there will have to be progress in this arena if the USDA is to reach its ambitious overall waste reduction goals. For instance, the agency believes that either retailers or customers throw out 30 percent of the total wasted food in the country, just because they are unsure whether it's still safe to eat. With an overall aim of cutting waste by half in the next 13 years, and eventually preventing food waste from reaching landfills, the USDA is moving ahead with the new label style.

    Ready to Change

    The trends described above are likely to force you to print out new product labels within the next two years. However, if you're only updating your food and beverage items' appearance when legally required to do so, you are likely behind the curve. Changing a product's look is a great way to make that item draw consumers' eyes, and when you work with a labeling partner capable of printing high-quality custom labels in reasonable amounts, it's easy to make periodic updates.

    Working with Lightning Labels as your trusted third party makes a lot of sense - true to its name, Lightning Labels is fast and responsive, available to give your custom labels a new look whether you're updating your packages due to a legal requirement, or just to make them more appealing.

  • New Nutrition Facts Labels: What's Coming, and What Could be Next

    Gradual Changes on the Way

    With the new FDA-mandated nutrition facts label on the way, it may seem too soon to project what will eventually replace the recently unveiled design. However, it's important to remember that there will likely be another style on the way in a few years, with yet another to follow. So when you work with a labeling partner to change your food products' backs and get in compliance with the latest FDA style, be sure to stay in touch with that company. You never know when another new design requirement may come down the pipeline.

    Imagining Possible Next Steps

    One hint that further evolution may be in store for the nutrition facts label is that the current round of changes isn't truly that drastic. Some industry watchers would doubtless like a more thorough revision. Law Street contributor Mary Kate Leahy recently explained that while the most recent round of changes does have the potential to positively affect decision-making about food purchases, consumers may benefit more from a graphically based "traffic light" system.

    While some manufacturers would doubtless resist the traffic light labeling style due to the fact that foods without nutritional merit would be forced to say so in the form of red light graphics, there is precedent for its use. Leahy explained that the U.K. currently mandates this kind of packaging as a measure against consumer confusion. It may therefore be worth studying up on such a design, both in case the U.S. decides to follow in the U.K.'s footsteps and to see if an optional version of the traffic light graphic may prove helpful to customers.

    Canada's Changes

    After considering the potential merits of the U.K. model, it's time to see the approach Canada has taken to its own nutrition facts label. Whether for another point of comparison or because you're interested in selling your products across the border, this design is worth studying. The government's new plans for labeling include enforcement of consistent serving sizes and a font size increase for sodium. Furthermore, there is a new list of minerals and nutrients that labels should include, to reflect changing consumer priorities.

    Clarity is clearly an objective for the Canadian model, as the new labels must include actual amounts of nutrients alongside percentage daily values. This could help shoppers make decisions without referring to other sources, which is a major step in the direction of simplification and clarity. The whole design will now be capped by an explanatory note pointing out that 5 percent or less of a recommenced daily value is "a little" and greater than 15 percent qualifies as "a lot."

    Examining the FDA's Design

    While it pays to look at other countries' designs and think of how U.S. labeling laws could change in the future, the fact is it's almost time to shift to a new set of labels here, making it most worthwhile to focus on those incoming changes. Whole Foods Magazine recently took such a look, explaining some of the most important elements you'll have to take into account as a manufacturer. For instance, the new list of minerals you must declare the presence and amount of consists of calcium, potassium, iron and vitamin D. Other declarations are optional.

    The source also explained that, like in the Canadian model, there will be a footnote on American nutrition facts panels. Unlike Canada's distinction between "a little" and "a lot," this text will specify that the percentage daily values are taken from a 2,000 calorie per day diet. Today's labels have a similar message, but the revised version has been reworded for clarity.

    A simple side-by-side comparison of new and old labels, provided by the FDA, shows that text formatting is one of the main elements that will change when the new design comes into effect. The number of calories is far larger than before, and the serving size has been bolded and enlarged. While the previous version of the nutrition facts label is largely a list of similar-sized items, the new one's hierarchy of importance is clearer.

    A Loyal Labeling Partner

    Getting ready to print new nutrition facts labels on your products is a great opportunity to redesign other elements. Whether that means adding additional health information or just adopting compelling new imagery, it's time to work with a competent labeling partner to ensure your project goes well and the revised designs roll out on schedule, potentially far in advance of the FDA's hard deadlines.

    Lightning Labels can become your ally in this mission of modernization, using its state-of-the-art digital processes to turn your project around quickly and efficiently. Lightning Labels has a commitment to customer service that helps it strike up long-term relationships with clients. This will prove helpful when the next regulatory changes come down the pipeline and you have to change your designs again. As long as you have a great food label provider in your corner, you can take shifts in policy in stride and keep up.

  • New USDA Rules Coming for Food Product Labeling

    Obeying Food Labeling Rules

    Companies that produce foods and beverages face unique product packaging demands, with a host of regulations to oblige before they even get around to aesthetic decisions. If your business operates in this area, you've already navigated the rules and gotten into compliance. However, in the years ahead, important changes are on the way. The latest announcements come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and have to do with the "sell by" or "use by" label - which has a new name, as well as the compliance dates for meat and poultry regulations.

    Cutting Down on Food Waste

    Food Processing explained that the USDA's recommendation - to implement a new "best if used by" label across the food production world - is designed to prevent waste. Today, different manufacturers use a variety of expiration date formats. These listings are voluntary for all products except infant formula, which requires the use of expiration dates. The new guidance is meant to ensure that wherever optional dating is employed, companies are working with the same vocabulary and format.

    Faced with a patchwork of phrases, including "sell by" and "use by," consumers may be thinking of the listed dates as hard cutoffs for freshness, and throwing food away that is still good. Food Processing noted that by standardizing the use of dating systems, and employing the phrase "best if used by," the USDA is hoping to ensure that shoppers will be better informed. People will now gain the knowledge that products of a certain age may have degraded in quality, but aren't necessarily unsafe. A hard-seeming "use by" date encourages individuals to throw food out, which causes waste.

    The recommendation comes after a period of research into the effects of different types of phrases. According to Food Processing, the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service settled on the final wording because high rates of people get the intended meaning. Implementing a blanket description across the food world is a big moment for the industry, and it was important for the agency to make sure its chosen version of the label is helpful.

    Meat and Poultry Compliance Dates

    Another announcement from the USDA FSIS concerns the meat and poultry industries. According to Food Safety News, this release isn't about any one rule. Rather, it's a notice that any regulations applied to meat and poultry production in 2017 and 2018 will go into effect on the first day of 2020. This gives producers a minimum of two years to adapt and get in compliance, though the agency would rather companies change practices as soon as rules are added to the books, rather than waiting for the deadline.

    The news source reported that the January 1, 2020 date will keep the FSIS in line with the Food and Drug Administration's labeling deadlines. Two years between announcement and implementation will allow organizations more than enough time to revise their labeling strategies. According to the FSIS guidance, a hard deadline for label changes is friendly to both companies and customers, as businesses won't have to change their labeling strategies too often, alterations which could lead to higher sticker prices.

    Ready for Anything

    The strategy you apply to your food labels will necessarily be impacted by regulations, but you don't have to worry about staying current in compliance, at least when you work with Lightning Labels. As an all-digital printing partner, Lightning Labels enables you to order relatively small quantities of stickers and labels for your products. This means no leftover or wasted labels when regulations change, and an ability to react quickly to any new regulations, getting well ahead of the deadlines. With a third party such as Lightning Labels on your side, you'll be able to stay ahead of the USDA's schedule rather than barely keeping up.

  • 2017 Begins with New FDA Labeling Requirements

    Keep an Eye on New FDA Labeling Requirements

    When you produce food or beverages, there's never a good time to tune out or stop paying attention to labeling laws and regulations. Regulators make sure to give you time to adjust your labels and comply with the rules, but you should still be as prompt as possible at identifying and responding to relevant moves by the major bodies in charge of packaging.

    The early days of 2017 have borne out the need for vigilance, with the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration already rolling out some announcements regarding upcoming adjustments to the laws. When you have a good grasp of the legal situation and an agile labeling partner on your side, it's possible to stay up on these requirements, and even to get ahead of them and give your customers a smooth transition from one type of labeling to the new standards.

    Comment Period Extended

    Do you have any valuable input on what should be considered "healthy"? If so, you have a few months left to tell the FDA. According to Food Safety News, the public comment deadline for what the word "healthy" is allowed to mean on food packages is now March 26, 2017. This is a revision from the previous date of January 26, and if you have anything to submit, this extension gives you time. Comments can be made either publicly or directly to the FDA in confidence.

    According to the news source, industry groups asked for the extension. The Grocery Manufacturers of America wanted more time for comments due to the fact that the end of the year tends to be busy for retailers and customers alike, leaving less time for affected parties to register their opinions about the "healthy" label.

    As for groups that have already made comments, Food Safety News specified that the United Egg Producers stepped up in favor of adding eggs to the definition of "healthy." Current restrictions involving saturated fat and cholesterol are the sticking point, but the industry body cited eggs' place in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans model diets as proof that eggs can be a healthy food and deserve the use of the related language.

    The very fact that the word "healthy" is back up for debate is due to an actual issue encountered by the FDA in 2015, according to the source. The inciting incident was a legal showdown between KIND, makers of fruit and grain bars, and the government body. The FDA told KIND that four of its "healthy"-labeled products did not comply with the present definition of that word, while KIND claimed that the science behind that label has since been superseded. Now, it's time for the public to have its say before the new law comes into effect.

    Are your products currently eligible to be called "healthy?" Might they be under a revised version of the labeling law? If you have any stake in this ongoing process, it's likely worth watching what happens next regarding the legal wrangling.

    Final Guidance Documents

    The first days of 2017 have been a busy time for FDA announcements, as Natural Products Insider recently noted the existence of two new draft guidance documents, both of which are entering their own comment periods. Now, you have 60 days from their publication on January 5 to register your opinion. The first draft concerns many important elements of the new labels - rounding of figures, the compliance date, how to label added sugars and even the thickness and spacing of lines in graphics are all discussed in the document. The second release consists of examples to help manufacturers develop serving sizes.

    With the new Nutrition Facts label representing a significant updating of a packaging element that has been stagnant for a long time, it is likely worthwhile to study these new documents and potentially register comments. No matter what kind of food or beverage you produce, the way you note the values of different ingredients, nutrients and serving recommendations could have an effect on consumer perception.

    When will you finally have to implement the coming changes and shift over to the new label format? This is one of the questions tackled in the latest round of guidance, as Natural Product Insider highlighted. Items that receive their labels before July 26, 2018 are the last batch that do not need the new-style Nutrition Facts panel. This date is one year later - July 26, 2019 if you sell less than $10 million of food each year.

    Time to Partner Up

    With regulations changing and new rules always being mooted, it's clear that you'll need a labeling partner on your side in the years ahead. This is where Lightning Labels can help, offering custom product labels for food and beverage manufacturers that look great and keep products in compliance with all relevant laws. Due to Lightning Labels' all-digital processes, you don't have to order huge amounts of labels at once. This means that when rules change, you don't end up with wasted labels fitting the old regulations.

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Material Descriptions

Materials

BIOSTONE

One of our eco-friendly options that is actually made of stone—no trees are used. This material should not laminated.

CAST GLOSS

This is another material specially designed for the wine industry. It is paper-based with a high-gloss white finish. Same adhesive and liner as Estate #9.

CHROME (SILVER) BOPP

This material has the same water and oil-resistant properties as our White BOPP and Clear BOPP, but has the "mirror-like" look of shiny chrome.

CLASSIC CREST

Best suited for wine labels, this is a white paper stock with a dull matte finish. It is not suitable for lamination and is therefore not waterproof. Same adhesive and liner as Estate #9.

CLEAR BOPP

This is the clear version of the Polypropylene (BOPP) material. It has the same waterproof qualities as the White BOPP. It provides more of a "no label" look and is also suitable for window stickers (where reverse printing of the image allows the label to be applied to the inside of a glass window and be viewed from the outside).

ESTATE #9

This is a great option for wine labels, gourmet foods or applications where a textured finish is desired. Being a paper stock, it's not as water-resistant or durable as BOPP, but its light cream color and textured feel add a touch of the "unusual" to the right product. It features a special adhesive (removable in 100+ degree hot water) and a stronger liner particularly suited to machine application. Not suitable for lamination.

GOLD POLYESTER (METALIZED)

This material will make your labels shine! Suitable for most labeling applications, it has a strong adhesive backing and must be laminated. Choose glossy laminate to make your label designs pop, or matte for a unique, elegant look.

KRAFT (RECYCLED)

This is a recycled 100% post consumer waste material. It is a 55# paper material that is a wonderful option if an “earthy” appearance is desired. The stronger liner is well suited for machine application. Depending upon face, substrate, water temperature and dwell time, label may be removed in hot water. It is not suitable for lamination; therefore, it is not water or oil resistant.

REMOVABLE WHITE BOPP

This material is the same as our standard BOPP, but has a special, "less aggressive" adhesive designed to allow the label to be removed or re-positioned after application. Depending on the surface it will be applied to, customer testing is strongly recommended. We can provide samples for this purpose.

SATIN CLOTH

Quite the unique material! Yes, it is woven satin acetate cloth. Think wine or spirit labels! This material will make your product packaging POP. The stronger liner is well suited for machine application. Depending upon face, substrate, water temperature and dwell time, label may be removed in hot water.

SQUEEZABLE

A white, 3mil film that is better suited for squeezable applications. This material has proven to work well in a variety of applications, so you can be confident it will perform well for you.

VELLUM (RECYCLED)

A great “green” choice, this 60# vellum is 100% recycled with 100% post consumer waste material. Cannot be laminated. Is neither water nor oil-resistant. The stronger liner is well suited for machine application. Depending upon face, substrate, water temperature and dwell time, label may be removed in hot water.

WHITE BOPP

This is our most commonly used material and is suitable for most applications. It's a polypropylene material with a permanent adhesive. It is impervious to water and oils, and is particularly suitable for bath and body products, as well as food containers.

WHITE EARTHFIRST PLA

A more environmentally friendly alternative to White BOPP. The PLA stands for Polylactic Acid (a biopolymer made from corn rather than petrochemicals). Similar look and feel to BOPP and suitable for most applications, but should not be used directly on candle containers.

WHITE FLEXIBLE VINYL

This is our most substantial material. The vinyl is thicker than BOPP, and is most suitable for outdoor applications where greater strength and durability are needed, or where lengthy exposure to the elements is an issue.

WINDOW DECAL (CLEAR/ULTRA-REMOVABLE)

We offer this window decal option as an alternative to static cling. The face stock is clear with excellent clarity. The adhesive is an ultra-removable featuring excellent weatherability and UV resistance. It removes cleanly from a wide variety of substrates without staining or ghosting. Why worry about static clings staying on when you can have removable adhesive there to hold it in place?

CAST GLOSS

This is another material specially designed for the wine industry. It is paper-based with a high-gloss white finish. Same adhesive and liner as Estate #9.

CHROME (SILVER) BOPP

This material has the same water and oil-resistant properties as our White BOPP and Clear BOPP, but has the "mirror-like" look of shiny chrome.

CLASSIC CREST

Best suited for wine labels, this is a white paper stock with a dull matte finish. It is not suitable for lamination and is therefore not waterproof. Same adhesive and liner as Estate #9.

CLEAR BOPP

This is the clear version of the Polypropylene (BOPP) material. It has the same waterproof qualities as the White BOPP. It provides more of a "no label" look and is also suitable for window stickers (where reverse printing of the image allows the label to be applied to the inside of a glass window and be viewed from the outside).

ESTATE #9

This is a great option for wine labels, gourmet foods or applications where a textured finish is desired. Being a paper stock, it's not as water-resistant or durable as BOPP, but its light cream color and textured feel add a touch of the "unusual" to the right product. It features a special adhesive (removable in 100+ degree hot water) and a stronger liner particularly suited to machine application. Not suitable for lamination.

GOLD POLYESTER (METALIZED)

This material will make your labels shine! Suitable for most labeling applications, it has a strong adhesive backing and must be laminated. Choose glossy laminate to make your label designs pop, or matte for a unique, elegant look.

KRAFT (RECYCLED)

This is a recycled 100% post consumer waste material. It is a 55# paper material that is a wonderful option if an “earthy” appearance is desired. The stronger liner is well suited for machine application. Depending upon face, substrate, water temperature and dwell time, label may be removed in hot water. It is not suitable for lamination; therefore, it is not water or oil resistant.

REMOVABLE WHITE BOPP

This material is the same as our standard BOPP, but has a special, "less aggressive" adhesive designed to allow the label to be removed or re-positioned after application. Depending on the surface it will be applied to, customer testing is strongly recommended. We can provide samples for this purpose.

SATIN CLOTH

Quite the unique material! Yes, it is woven satin acetate cloth. Think wine or spirit labels! This material will make your product packaging POP. The stronger liner is well suited for machine application. Depending upon face, substrate, water temperature and dwell time, label may be removed in hot water.

SQUEEZABLE

A white, 3mil film that is better suited for squeezable applications. This material has proven to work well in a variety of applications, so you can be confident it will perform well for you.

VELLUM (RECYCLED)

A great “green” choice, this 60# vellum is 100% recycled with 100% post consumer waste material. Cannot be laminated. Is neither water nor oil-resistant. The stronger liner is well suited for machine application. Depending upon face, substrate, water temperature and dwell time, label may be removed in hot water.

WHITE BOPP

This is our most commonly used material and is suitable for most applications. It's a polypropylene material with a permanent adhesive. It is impervious to water and oils, and is particularly suitable for bath and body products, as well as food containers.

WHITE EARTHFIRST PLA

A more environmentally friendly alternative to White BOPP. The PLA stands for Polylactic Acid (a biopolymer made from corn rather than petrochemicals). Similar look and feel to BOPP and suitable for most applications, but should not be used directly on candle containers.

WHITE FLEXIBLE VINYL

This is our most substantial material. The vinyl is thicker than BOPP, and is most suitable for outdoor applications where greater strength and durability are needed, or where lengthy exposure to the elements is an issue.

WINDOW DECAL (CLEAR/ULTRA-REMOVABLE)

We offer this window decal option as an alternative to static cling. The face stock is clear with excellent clarity. The adhesive is an ultra-removable featuring excellent weatherability and UV resistance. It removes cleanly from a wide variety of substrates without staining or ghosting. Why worry about static clings staying on when you can have removable adhesive there to hold it in place?

Artwork Specifications

Laminates

High Gloss

High gloss is our most popular laminate. It is the least expensive option and provides protection for the label and a high gloss shiny finish.

Matte

The Matte Laminate provides your label with a dull, non-glossy finish. Some customers consider this achieves a more "natural" look.

Thermal Transfer

This is a gloss laminate that is designed to work with most over-printing thermal transfer printers. We do recommend you get samples first to test through your own printer before placing an order with this laminate.

UV Outdoor Gloss

As the name implies this is best used for labels that will be used outdoors. It has a high gloss finish with excellent UV resistance. It is best paired with our vinyl material for the most durable outdoor label.