Food Labels: Know the Regulations and When to Conduct an Update
When was the last time you reviewed and organized your food product labels? Keeping your Nutrition Facts Labels, Child Nutrition Labels and Product Formulation Statements organized and updated is so important to a smooth-running school kitchen!
We understand first-hand what a task this is with the ever-growing label books and ingredients. Taking time to assess, organize and archive various labels is a must for an efficient kitchen. Let’s take a look at food label regulations and various occurrences that would result in the need for a label review.
Understand the USDA Regulations
Bookmark the USDA’s Food Buying Guide, which outlines meal pattern requirements and food labeling regulations. The USDA regulations require that districts collect and maintain food product labels for all menu items. They must be kept on file for three years, which includes the current year. The label types are as follows:
- Nutrition Facts Labels: The Nutrition Facts Label contains product-specific information, including serving size, calories, macronutrients, etc. The Nutrition Facts Label is required for each and every menu item in your kitchen.
- Child Nutrition Labels (CN): The USDA’s CN Labeling Program provides manufacturers the option to include a standardized food crediting statement on their label, determining its contribution to meal requirements. Labels need to be authorized by the USDA prior to use and manufacturers must have quality control procedures in place that meet FNS requirements.
- Product Formulation Statements (PFS): When purchasing a processed product without a CN Label, you may request a signed Product Formulation Statement from the food manufacturer that demonstrates how the processed product contributes to meal pattern requirements.
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While all menu items need to have a Nutrition Facts label or the nutritional breakdown on file, a CN label or a PFS accompanies processed foods, or foods that are not whole foods. Foods eligible for the CN labeling program are main dish products that contribute to the meat or meat alternate component of the meal pattern requirement. This means that any less-than-100% beef patty would display a CN label or a PFS in addition to the Nutrition Facts Label.
When it comes to CN labels, the manufacturer is responsible for the accuracy of the label. The USDA has published a list of manufacturers that meet the FNS’ quality control program requirements for the CN Labeling Program, and they update it monthly. The benefit of using CN labels in your program is that the labels clearly identify the contribution of a product toward the meal pattern requirements, protecting your school from any false product claims in the event of an audit.
The responsibility for assuring that the PFS is accurate and complete, on the other hand, falls onto the district. The PFS must be signed and dated with the current school year to be considered valid. Additional tips for assessing validity of the PFS may be found on the USDA website here.
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Say good-bye to label binders! Most allow you to link your labels to the recipes
When to Conduct a Label Update
There are many events that lead up to the need for conducting a label update at your school. Here are a few examples:
- Ingredients Update. If you plan to update your ingredients over the Summer, you’ll also need to update your labels by the start of the new school year.
- Manufacturer Reformulation. Perhaps your chicken nugget vendor has reformulated its product. They will need to prepare new labels for their food product and provide them to you – or you will have to contact them for the new labels.
- New Products. If you’re sourcing new food products in time for the start of the new school year, you’ll need to refresh your labels to ensure compliance.
- New Vendors. If you change food vendors or source a few new products from a new vendor, then a label update is in order. You may also have switched distributors, purchased from a new co-op, etc. – for each of these instances, you’ll need to make sure your labels are not only accurate but that you have the correct labeling in place for each food.
How My K12 Resource Helps: Food Label Collection
When it comes to updating the food label collection is one of the most time-consuming projects at hand. You may have to put one full-time employee on it until this project is complete!
My K12 Resource can do this preparation for you instead! We help harvest any menus that may not have been provided to you by the manufacturer, co-op, etc. Our team will be sure that you have all labels for each and every food product that you serve to your students. (Please note that your locally-sourced dairy products are more time-intensive to source.) Contact us today to have our team take this project off of your hands!
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