Labels are there to give information

Labels on food packaging is all about information. It is information required by law, information for the customer / consumer and information for the business.

All this information has to fit into the space available on the package in a way that can be easily read. To meet these three requirements for information is not easy and sometimes businesses get it wrong, but what they cannot ever do is say something on the label that is not true and or easily understood by those reading the information.

Information required by law

This is the information that is required by the Food Standards Code, and other legislation, which may be applicable to that specific product. As an example when the new Model Code for labelling of free range eggs comes into effect, then eggs will need to be labelled accordingly.

If a business does not label their products according to these requirements, there are potential risks of fines and legal costs. A large supermarket in Australia is currently facing potential fines in excess of $1million due to a bread range being labelled with a statement that was not the full truth.

These requirements are set by regulators and industry bodies to protect the businesses, the industries and the public. They are not developed lightly but take time and much work by many groups, government departments and the public itself.

Information for customers / consumers

This information is often included in the information required by law but is really about giving the public enough information to be able to make an informed choice.

Information for businesses

The primary focus of this type of information is to get people to buy the product. So it includes descriptions and pictures as well as things like recipes and instructions for use.

The better and more attractive a label looks, the more likely it is that people will buy the product, so businesses spent a lot of time and money getting their labels professionally designed. This is expensive and can become a real issue if there are any changes required for either legally or business reasons.

Business do not generally try to put information on the labels that is not true and correct, the risks of fines and loss of custom through a product recall,in doing that are just not worth it. However, the requirements for labelling are complex and sometimes businesses just do not get it right and will pay the price in either fines or product recalls.

It is always worth spending time going through the legal requirements in depth before designing a label to reduce the likelihood of having issues in the future.

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