Food Labeling

Depending on what food you are making in a commercial kitchen and where you are selling it you will be subject to a variety of food labeling regulations. It is important that you become informed about the applicable laws and regulations relating to food labeling before offering foods for distribution.


Below you will find some general guidance regarding labeling your packaged food products in the state of Iowa.


Food Labeling in Iowa

In Iowa, packaged food prepared in licensed food establishments or food-processing plants must be labeled at a minimum with the following information:

  1. Product name.
  2. A list of ingredients in order of predominance (by weight). If the product has a standard of identity in the Code of Federal Regulations, it must conform to that standard.
  3. Name and address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor. Unless the name given is the actual manufacturer, it must be accompanied by a phrase that states the product is: “manufactured for” or “distributed by.”
  4. Net weight or volume.
  5. Allergen information.
  6. Nutrition labeling information is required unless exempt. Exemptions may be found on the FDA website. [1]

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for assuring that foods sold in the United States are safe, wholesome and properly labeled. The FDA regulates most food labeling requirements. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service regulates aspects of the safety and labeling of traditional meats, poultry, and certain egg products.


The FDA’s A Food Labeling Guide: Guidance for Industry is a summary of food labeling requirements including nutrition labeling and health claims. This publication gives a good overview of food labeling regulations and is very practical and easy to understand. If you are developing a food label you should definitely consult this resource.


The FDA has very specific requirements for food labels, including standard placement, required content and minimum type size. You should always consult the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website for the most current food labeling information available as labeling requirements can change.


If you need assistance with your label consider consulting with a business or an attorney knowledgeable about food labeling requirements. There are many regulatory attorneys who can review labels to ensure compliance with the regulations. One such firm is Ullman, Shapiro & Ullman, LLP. In addition, many firms specialize in nutritional analysis, and creating FDA-compliant food labels and nutrition facts labels. One such company is Nutrition Food Labels; another is the Food Consulting Company. [2]

Some important elements to understand when labeling food are these:

  • Principle Display Panel or PCP is that portion of the package label that is most likely to be seen by the consumer at the time of purchase. Place the statement of identity, or name of the food, and the net quantity statement, or amount of product, on the PCP.
  • The Statement of Identity is the name of the food. It must appear on the PCP as the food’s common or usual name such as Rice, Peas, Cereal or Cheese. If there isn’t a common name then a name that is not misleading should be used.
  • Net Quantity of Contents (net quantity statement) is the statement on the label that provides the amount of food in the container or package. It must be expressed in weight, measure or numeric count. Generally, if the food is solid, semisolid or viscous, it should be expressed in terms of weight. If the food is a liquid it should be expressed in fluid measure (e.g. fl. oz.).
  • The Information Panel is the label panel immediately to the right of the PDP, as displayed to the consumer.
  • Information Panel Labeling refers to the label statements that are generally required to be placed together, without any intervening material, on the information panel, if such labeling does not appear on the PDP. These label statements include the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor, the ingredient list, nutrition labeling and any required allergy labeling.
  • Ingredient List on a food label is the listing of each ingredient in descending order of predominance by weight. Listing ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight means that the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last.
  • Nutrition Facts Label is required on most food packages. Typeface and style must assure readability and conspicuousness. Only those nutrients listed in FDA’s nutrition regulations, as mandatory or voluntary components, may be included in the Nutrition Facts label. Some companies can obtain an exemption from nutrition labeling.
  • Name of Manufacturer, Packer or Distributor and Place of Business must be given on the label. If the party listed does not manufacture the food, then a qualifying phrase such as “manufactured for” or “distributed for” must appear. Include the street address, city, state and postal code of the responsible party.

Section 403(q) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that packaged foods and dietary supplements bear nutrition fact labeling unless they qualify for an exemption. Many users of a commercial kitchen may qualify for an exemption under the regulations.


The nutrition labeling exemptions for low-volume products apply if the person claiming the exemption employs fewer than an average of 100 full-time equivalent employees and fewer than 100,000 units of that product are sold in the United States in a 12-month period. For these exemptions, a notice must be filed annually with FDA.


If a person is not an importer, and has fewer than 10 full-time equivalent employees, that person does not have to file a notice for any food product with annual sales of fewer than 10,000 total units. However, if any nutrient content claim (e.g., “sugar free”), health claim, or other nutrition information is provided on the label, or in labeling or advertising, the small business exemption is not applicable for a product. 


For more information and to apply for an exemption see the Small Business Nutrition Labeling Exemption Guidance available on the FDA webpage.


You may want to have a nutritional analysis done and a nutrition fact label created for your product even if you qualify for an exemption. For example most retailers will require nutritional information before accepting a product. A number of companies provide this service and can do the analysis from a database and the product recipe. They can also create a camera-ready nutrition food label for you. One such company is Nutrition Food Labels; another is the Food Consulting Company.

Example of Nutrition Facts Label

To help Americans avoid the health risks posed by food allergens, Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA). It addresses the labeling of all packaged foods regulated by the FDA. All packaged foods regulated by FDA that are labeled on or after January 1, 2006, must comply with FALCPA’s food allergen labeling requirements. As a result, food labels help allergic consumers to identify offending foods or ingredients so they can more easily avoid them.

Before FALCPA, the labels of foods made from two or more ingredients were required to list all ingredients by their common or usual names. The names of some ingredients, however, do not clearly identify their food source. Now, the law requires that labels must clearly identify the food source names of all ingredients that are — or contain any protein derived from —the eight most common food allergens, which FALCPA defines as “major food allergens.”

Under FALCPA, a “major food allergen” is an ingredient that is one of the following eight foods or food groups or an ingredient that contains protein derived from one of them:

MilkFishTree nutsWheat
EggCrustacean shellfishPeanutsSoybean

These eight major food allergens account for 90% of all food allergies.

FALCPA labeling requirements apply to foods that are made with any ingredient, including flavorings, colorings, or incidental additives (e.g., processing aids), that is or that contains a major food allergen.

For more information consult the Food Allergens Guidance Document and other information on the FDA website.

Food Allergens at a Commercial Kitchen

A commercial kitchen is a shared use kitchen. Food allergens may be present in food being prepared by other users. Good sanitation and good manufacturing procedures can reduce the chances of cross-contamination.

If you plan to sell your product into a retail channel it will usually be necessary to obtain a UPC code, or Universal Product Code for your product. A UPC code is a unique twelve-digit number and bar code that meets international standards. UPCs literally identify and keep track of millions and millions of individual products for retailers, manufacturers and suppliers of all types.


Retailers use UPC codes to manage their inventory logistics, scan correct pricing at the register, and to track product sales. UPCs can take on more importance as your company grows. Most retailers will require a UPC code on your label before they will accept your product into their store.


GS1 is a non-profit organization that manages UPC codes and other data standards for product identification, data sharing and data capture globally. They issue UPCs and bar codes to businesses worldwide. To buy a UPC bar code in the US contact GS1 US and click on I need a barcode. You will register your company and obtain a GS1 Company Prefix which is a unique identification number identifying your company. The GS1 Company Prefix will be part of every product UPC barcode you create. GS1 membership fees and licensing fees vary depending on the number of barcodes you need.


You can obtain a UPC barcode without registering your company directly with GS1 through a third party UPC reseller such as BUYABARCODE.COM. It is typically less expensive to get a barcode through a reseller because the Company Prefix is registered in their name and they are able to spread that cost over a large number of barcodes. This may be a solution if you are only planning to create a few products and sell them locally.[3]


However, some retailers will not accept third party barcodes. They require the UPC to link directly back to the brand owner, therefore they require the company to register directly with GS1 and get a unique Company Prefix. Be sure to check with retailers you anticipate selling to about their UPC requirements.


Other Resources:

A Food and Labeling Guide. Guidance for Industry. US Department of Human Health and Services. Food and Drug Administration. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. 2013.


FDA Small Business Nutrition Labeling Exemption webpage explains how to file for an exemption from the requirement for packaged foods to bear nutrition labeling.


Hamilton, Joanna. Iowa Food Marketing Regulations: A Guide for Small-Scale Producers. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. 2012.


Questions on food labels can be directed to:

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN)

Division of Education and Communication

Communication and Coordination Branch, HFS-9

5100 Paint Branch Parkway

College Park, MD 20740-3835

Phone: 1-888-SAFE-FOOD




USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2014. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page,


The USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR) is the major source of food composition data in the United States. It provides the foundation for most food composition databases in the public and private sectors. As information is updated, new versions of the database are released. This current version, Release 26 (SR26), contains data on 8,463 food items and up to 150 food components.


The FDA website offers an Overview of Requirements for a Food Business that summarizes many of the regulatory requirements food businesses face. This page provides concise information to frequently asked questions and links to publicly available resources. See for more information.


[2] Note this is not a complete list of companies that supply these services. Nor is it an endorsement of the companies listed. Other resources can be found with an online search.

[3] Note this is not a complete list of companies that supply these services. Nor is it an endorsement of the companies listed. Other resources can be found with an online search.