FDA Reader
Simplifying Food Regulation


FDA Reader: Simplifying Food Regulation

Basics of FDA Food Labeling Requirements

Most food product labels have specific requirements about what information you must state on the label, where it appears, and the format.

Most food product labels have specific requirements about what information you must state on the label, where it appears, and the format.

What Do I Need to Know?

  • Some products are exempt from labeling requirements.

  • Your food product must be labeled with the following labeling elements. The required location of these elements is in parentheses, when applicable.

    • Common name of the food (Principal Display Panel)

    • Net quantity of contents (PDP)

    • Ingredient list (PDP or information panel)

    • Name & location of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor (PDP or information panel)

    • Nutrition Information

Types of Panels

Front Panel (Principal Display Panel)

The Principal Display Panel (PDP) is the front panel of the packaging


The Principal Display Panel (PDP) is the part of a food label that is most likely to be displayed to the customer when for sale. This is the front panel on a product.

Check out our article about the Principal Display Panel to learn more about the requirements for this label.

Information Panel

The Information Panel is the part of the label next to the Primary Display Panel (PDP). It generally appears to the right side of the PDP (viewer's perspective) but may appear elsewhere if this is unfeasible.

Information Panel Requirements: All of the following items must appear on either the information panel or the principal display panels

Rear Panel (Nutrition Information)

Nutrition information contains information about the nutritional composition of the product, including nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients.

Some products may be exempt from the requirements for a nutritional label Click here to learn about Nutrition Information Label Exemptions

Check out a detailed review of the requirements for Nutrition Information labeling

Required Elements on a Food Label

Identity (Common Name) of the Food

The identify of a product must be listed on the PDP

Common Name “Tortilla Chips”

Common Name “Tortilla Chips”

The Identity of a food refers to the common name of that food. For example, since Doritos is not a type of food (it is a product name), the company has to list the identify of the product, "Tortilla chips" on the Primary Display Panel (front label).

The FDA has specific standards for what defines many food products. These are called "Standards of Identity" and they exist to make sure that consumers know what they're getting when they buy something at the supermarket (this is why crab substitute must be labeled "imitation crab").

For example, you can't mix corn syrup and food coloring and market it as "raspberry jam" because there are specific criteria that are required in order for you to identify your product as "jam".

If you produce a food product, it is extremely important that you understand the Standards of Identity before you create a product label.

For more information about Standards of identity, consult our guide, orthe FDA regulations:


Ingredients List:

Sub-ingredients can be listed in parentheses

Ingredients must be listed in descending order by weight. The ingredients list should appear directly below the nutritional panel (if not due to space constraints, then directly to the right). The list of ingredients should start after the word, "Ingredients"

Ingredients that are themselves composed of two or more ingredients:

These can be listed in two ways:

First, the sub-ingredients can be listed after the common name of the ingredient.

For example, in this cookie dough label, the sub-ingredients in "Vegetable Shortening" are listed after that item. They are: pam oil, soybean oil, beta carotene, etc.

Second, the ingredients may be folded into the entire list of ingredients so that the ingredient containing sub-ingredients is not named. To use the example above, you may simply list the sub-ingredients of vegetable shortening among other ingredients of the product without listing vegetable shortening itself.

However, note that the ingredients still must appear in order of predominance in the finished product.

Shortened Ingredient Names:

Certain ingredient names (such as "concentrated milk") may be condensed to a shorter form in their listing ("milk"). Consult Subpart A 101.4   for more information on shortened ingredient names.


Name & Location of the Manufacturer, Packer, or Distributor

Name & Location

The label must include the name and location of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor.

The name may be a corporation name or, in the case of an individual or partnership, the name under which the business is conducted.

If product is not manufactured or distributed by the person or company whose name appears on the label, then the wordage should express this. 

For example, if your product is produced by a contractor, you could write, 

"Manufactured for [your company name]"


"Distributed by [your company name]"

For the Location requirement, the requirement must be the street address, city, state, and zip code. However, the address is available in the telephone book, then you are allowed to list only the ZIP code.

For More information about this section, consult Subpart A -- §101.5

Net Quantity of Contents

Net quantity of contents posted on the PDP

Net quantity of contents posted on the PDP

Net Quantity of Contents (in red box)

The net quantity of food contents must appear on the principal display panel (PDP). This refers to the weight of the product excluding any packaging weight.

This can be expressed in terms of weight, measure, count or a combination. Liquids must be described in terms of gallons, quarts, pints, and fluid oz. The weight should follow the words "Net Weight"


This must be placed in the bottom 30% of the PDP and be printed horizontally (i.e. parallel to the base of the label).

For more information about this section, consult Subpart A -- §101.7

 101.8, 101.9, 13, 17, 36, 101 Subpart D , part 105