How to get Nutrition Facts for my food label
This is a step-by-step guide to get the Nutrition Facts for your food labels.
Step 1: Decide how much food will be in your package
The amount of food in the package is called the “net contents”. If your food is solid, sort of solid, or very thick and slow flowing it should be labeled in terms of weight (e.g. grams, ounces). If your food is liquid and easily pourable it should be labeled in fluid measures (e.g. fluid ounces, milliliters). If you have different sized packages of food you will also need a different Nutrition Facts panel for each new size. The goal is that the serving size multiplied by the servings per package on the Nutrition Facts panel should add up to the net contents on the front of the food label.
Step 2: Measure the dimensions of your food package
Nutrition Facts come in many shapes and sizes but they are all regulated. The shape and size of the Nutrition Facts also called the format, is based on the area of your food package “available” for labeling. Measure the dimensions of this area in inches so you can determine the total square inches of your packaging that could be labeled. This does not mean the area of the small sticker label on the package. It means the area of the package that could be labeled. This excludes parts of the package that cannot be labeled and are not labeled, like the neck of a bottle or the bottom of a milk carton. The goal here is to select the compliant Nutrition Facts format for your size package.
Step 3: Determine the piece count or density of your food in the package
The piece count is an important part of your serving size when there are larger pieces of food. Examples of large pieces are tortilla chips, bagels, cookies, slices of bread. When the piece count in the package may vary it’s a good idea to do a count on several packages and then take an average. A density measurement is only needed when the food is liquid, scooped like peanut butter, or in small pieces (e.g. grains of rice, raisins, chocolate chips, table sugar). A simple way to estimate density is with a 1 cup measuring cup from your kitchen and a small digital postal scale. Fill the cup completely with the food and record the weight of only the food inside the cup. To do this you need to subtract out the weight of the measuring cup from the weight of the food. When you fill the cup fill it just like you would fill it with water, level with the top. Try to fill it in such a way that there are no air bubbles trapped inside. You may need to use a straight edge like a knife to make the food level with the top of the cup. Do this several times and get a good average weight of the food in grams. The goal here is to get a compliant serving size on the Nutrition Facts for your category of food which will be based on the piece count or density.
Step 4: Get a nutrition analysis
For most types of food, a recipe or database analysis is appropriate. This method is fast, economical, and allowed by the FDA. If you would like us to help you with a recipe analysis please click here to get started. Food Lab specializes in nutrition analysis of food products based on your recipe. However, a few types of foods require that you send samples to a chemistry lab for testing to determine their nutritional value. Examples of these types of foods are nut milk, beef jerky, pickles, and kombucha. Chemistry is the most expensive option for nutrition analysis and is a great method for all types of food, not just the ones we listed. We can also help you get a nutrition analysis of your product from chemistry if required. If you are not sure which option is best for your product please give us a call. We can help you determine which method is most appropriate for your type of food. The goal here is to obtain the nutrition values for your food that includes all of the mandatory nutrients required for a Nutrition Facts panel on your food label.
Step 5: Find your serving size
The last item that brings all these things together into a Nutrition Facts panel is your serving size. The quantity of all the nutrients and their corresponding percent daily values (%DV) are based on your serving size. Since they are regulated by the FDA you can’t just pick any serving size you want. The FDA requires that serving sizes be uniform between similar types of foods so that consumers can more easily compare the nutrition between them. The FDA has created a table called the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (or RACC table) that is used to determine serving sizes. The serving size is made up of two parts: a "household measure term" followed by its metric equivalent in grams (g). For liquids, the household measures may be declared in cups, tablespoons, teaspoons, or fluid ounces with the metric equivalent in milliliters (mL). In general, the serving size must be the closest number of pieces or fraction of a household measure to the reference amount. We have a step-by-step example of how to determine the serving size for a pizza here. The goal here is to select the FDA-compliant serving size for your category of food.
Step 6: Create the Nutrition Facts panel
Now that you have your net contents, count/density, package surface area, nutritional analysis, and serving size you are ready to create the Nutrition Facts. Each nutrient has its own set of rules for rounding the amounts labeled and for using the RDI’s and DRVs for calculating the percent daily values (%DV). These rules are found in the Code of Federal Regulations 21CFR101.9. There are three main formats for the Nutrition Facts called standard, tabular, or linear. The format of the Nutrition Facts is regulated by the FDA and is based on the area of the package available for labeling in square inches. You can find examples of different Nutrition Facts formats and helpful formatting guidelines on the FDA’s website. The FDA prefers that you use the largest format that your label will accommodate. However, most people want to use the smallest Nutrition Facts format allowed for their size package. This gives you the most label real-estate for the other more aesthetically pleasing artwork and the other important information you want to display on the label. The goal here is to be sure you have an FDA-compliant format for your Nutrition Facts that uses a reasonable amount of labeling area.
DIY Nutrition Facts or should you hire a pro?
Nutrition Facts formatting is fairly complicated and regulated by the FDA. We recommend hiring a professional to help you avoid common mistakes made on Nutrition Facts. Doing a nutrition analysis and making the Nutrition Facts panel is much like preparing taxes. Lots of people are comfortable doing their own taxes and receiving money-saving benefits. However, they also risk that they may do it incorrectly and have issues with the IRS in the future. If that is you there are many software programs and websites that offer these DIY services. Another option is to hire professionals like us to do the nutrition analysis and create the Nutrition Facts for you. Hiring us is like hiring a CPA to do your taxes with the same peace of mind that brings. If you are not sure which option is right for you give us a call or consider the following:
Always hire a professional to create your Nutrition Facts if…
- You have a complicated food process and/or many ingredients.
- Importing a food from another country
- Making a significant investment in packaging
- You have something new or unusual in the marketplace
- Making claims on your food label
Please contact us if we can be helpful or if you have questions about creating Nutrition Facts for your food label Toll-Free 855-FOOD-LAB (366-3522).
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