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Production

Package & Label

Choose your package carefully. The package will showcase your product while keeping it safe during delivery.

A good package will fit the needs and requirements of the processing, delivery, display, marketing and storage of your product. When choosing a package, be sure to consider:

  • Material: Strong and Food Safe
  • Operational capability: Moisture and temperature impacts the stability of a label.
  • Appealing
  • Availability
  • Cost

The label of your product is the portal between your business and your consumer. It sells your product. The package attracts and entices the consumer to pick up and buy your product. The label describes and pictures the product. It conveys information about the contained nutrition, ingredients, quantity, and quality of the product. Because of these numerous functions, it is important that you plan and draft your label carefully.

Be aware: there are some very specific label compliancy laws for food packaging. In order that businesses do not mislead the consumer, labels have become State and federally regulated.

Health claims cannot be made on the package unless the label and company are approved and inspected by the FDA.

All food for retail sale in the State of Massachusetts must be labeled, including food from residential kitchens. Failure to follow such regulation can be a costly oversight, potentially rendering your product unsalable.

Creating a visually appealing, yet compliant label for your product can prove to be a time consuming process.  Failure to comply with regulations can incur significant fees that could be quite costly. The following is a summary of State Labeling Regulations. Consult the FDA’s Labeling guide for a more digestible version of the federal regulation.

Minimum Information for Massachusetts

(Adapted From Massachusetts Minimum Requirements for Packaged-Food Labeling Information Brochure)

To organize all of the required information for a compliant label, the label has been divided into two areas or locations:

  • Principal Display Panel (PDP)- Is the front face of the product with the product name and similar information
  • Information Panel (IP)- is located to the right of the PDP and contains nutrition and business information

Principal Display Panel – All PDPs require at least the following information:

  • Common or usual name of product – i.e. the term that consumers will use to recognize and identify the product.
  • Net Weight – in metric (grams, liters) or US units (pounds, ounces). Dual declaration stating unit equivalency if more than one pound: 1 Pound (16 oz)
  • Storage conditions if perishable – i.e. “Keep Refrigerated”, “Keep Frozen,” “Refrigerate after opening”
  • Standard of Identity must be met if the product is to be sold under that product name
  • Consult 105 CMR 510.000

Information Panel

  • All ingredients in descending order by weight and a complete list of sub ingredients
  • All FDA certified colors
  • Open dating for perishable or semi-perishable foods
    • A calendar date stamped on product package to determine how long it is to be available for sale. After this date it may not be safe or of intended quality
    • “Sell By” “Best if used by”  if shelf life is less than 90 days
    • Exemptions; fresh fruit, meat, poultry, fish, pre-packaged for retail sale and net weight of less than 1.5 ounces.
  • Name, address of Manufacturer/packer/distributor.
    Street address shall be included if company not listed in current edition of telephone book.
  • Allergen labeling (Dairy, Egg, Soy, Wheat, Tree nuts, Peanuts, Shellfish, Seafood)
    Either embedded in the ingredient statement or listed afterwards under the heading “Contains: XXX”
  • Nutrition labeling
    • Determining serving size 21 CFR 101.12 Table 2
    • Tabulate nutritional content- calculated or analytically tested
    • USDA’s online Nutrient Data
      List of nutrition resources
    • Health and other claims-
      Consult the Food Product Labeling Guide on the FDA Food Guidance webpage about claims approved by the FDA and can only be used on federal labels

Small Business Exemptions

Businesses that sell their product over state lines are subject to FDA regulation and must follow additional labeling requirements. Small businesses, however, may be exempt or apply for such exemption. This would exempt them from some of the expensive nutrition testing or qualification required for compliance with federal labeling laws.

A business can be considered exempt under the following two circumstances:

  • Small Sales
    Annual gross sale of food product amounts to less than $50,000. This business does NOT need to file for a small business nutrition labeling exemption with the FDA.
  • Low Volume
    The business employs fewer than 100 full time employees AND fewer than 100,000 units of product are sold in the US in a 12 month period.
    This business must file for a Small Business Nutrition Labeling Exemption

If any nutrient, content, or health claim is made on the label, the small business exemption no longer applies; the label must adopt all federal requirements and is subject to approval. More information about such exemptions and the application form can be found on the FDA website.

Quality Assurance

Now that your product is ready to roll out, ensure it reaches the consumer exactly the way you want it to. To do this take a few steps to assure the quality and integrity of your product.

Put your planning into action:

  • Train all personnel on specific responsibilities, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and protocols
  • Identify and monitor your product as it is produced to make sure targets in taste and integrity are met. i.e. time and temperature recordings, water activity, pH testing, etc.
  • Complete set safety checkpoints for product
  • Take and keep records of each batch and corrective actions taken (if necessary)

Paperwork

  • Register your business with the appropriate federal agency
    • Seafood and non-meat: FDA
    • Meat and Poultry: USDA
  • Apply for all required licenses for both your facility and business (refer to the Business Classification section under Business Plan)
  • Receive necessary Food Safety Training
    • Take a Food Sanitation Training Course (Serve Safe) if required by your local Board Of Health
    • HACCP certification
  • Obtain General and Product Liability Insurance
  • Be mindful of Small Business and Self-Employed tax guidelines
  • Determine a price for your product using your formula and operational costs
  • Confirm where your production facility will be, establish the minimum production capacity necessary to be operational and cost effective, and determine schedule lead times.

And with that, you are open for business and your product ready is for sale!