Top 11 Types of Food Safety Labels- Know the Difference to Protect Yourself

Know the Food Safety Labels!

Food safety labels inform consumers about the ingredients and nutritional composition of the food product for sale. Labels are also a source of information about the conditions of production of food.
Food labeling in the United States is mostly regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

These two agencies are responsible for food labeling issues. The USDA controls the labeling of meat, poultry and egg products, while FDA controls food labeling of other products including seafood and bioengineering products. Certain states in the US also require sell-by or use-by label information on the products for food rotation. In case of any conflict, federal laws prevail.

Manufacturing Practices

As per procedures prescribed by the FDA for food labeling, manufacturer owes the responsibility to make sure that food contact substances comply with the specifications and limitations in all applicable authorizations. To meet these requirements, manufacturers must go with the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) prescribed by the FDA. Section 21 of the CFR covers all the labeling and packaging procedures for the manufacturers. It also includes the list of substances which are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) as well as unsafe for direct or indirect contact of food.

The FDA through CFR provides extensive information on general indirect food additives, adhesives and coating components, paper and components of paperboard, and polymers of rotation labels. There is also information on irradiation in production, processing and handling food for food safety.
Complying with these regulations, manufacturers can make sure that they meet all the requirements of food labeling.

There are so many different food safety labels and it can be hard to know which one is best.

With the increased awareness about food safety, people are more cautious about what they eat.

Date Marking

Date marking is defined as a process to control the growth of harmful bacteria that grow at refrigeration temperatures. It is a system to identify tamper-evident food and the day of the week when the food should be discarded before the pathogens can cause foodborne illness. Usually, the foods that are ready to eat or can be consumed regardless of temperature, that require time or temperature control, or prepared and held for more than 24 hours require date marking for food safety.

Date marking on the food must reflect the last day when the food is appropriate to be consumed, sold, or discarded on the evident labels. The other way round, it may also reflect the first-day food was prepared. In this case, the day of preparation should be taken as day 1 for the food. The label should be clear, effective, and understandable to consumers, employees, and the authority. The date-marked foods held under refrigeration can be consumed, sold, or discarded within 7 days of the specified date.
In case of mixing foods with two different dates, use first the product with an older date for reference.

Net Weight

Net weight is the weight of any product without its packaging or weight of the container. Net weight can be calculated by subtracting the weight of container or packaging of the item from the total weight or gross weight. For example, net weight of a tin of flour is gross weight minus the weight of the tin.

Food labeling should quote net weight through evident labels.

Storage Instructions

Storage instructions refers to external factors affecting the food. Temperature, light conditions and humidity are taken into consideration for storage instructions. It contains information on storage conditions other than normal room temperature.

Labels containing instructions like 'Keep Refrigerated' and 'store in a cool, dry place' are examples of storage instructions on food labeling. Food products that require 'Best Before' tag with a date come with mandatory storage instructions on the tamper evident label. Some products may also contain additional storage instruction information like day of the week.

When you buy food, how do you know if it’s safe?

You’ve heard of some of these labels, but others might be new to you. What are they?

Shelf Life

Shelf life can be defined as the time period till the food can be kept with prescribed storage conditions before it starts deteriorating. The shelf life of a food product can be calculated from the time food is prepared or manufactured. Several factors like ingredients, manufacturing process, type of packaging, and storage of the food directly affect the shelf life of the product. Its indicator is the date marked on the food labels.

As per the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA there are different types of date marking to consider on food products-

- Sell by- It is basically a guide to stores that tells them how long to display the product before it starts deteriorating.
- Best Before- It does not refer to food safety but defines the quality or flavor profile of the food product.
- Use By- It is the expiration date of the product after which its consumption is not recommended.


All potentially hazardous foods or PHF displayed for sale in temperature danger zone of 41 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit requires to have the PHF label. These labels inform customers about when the food should be eaten by or food rotation labels or thrown out to avoid risk of foodborne illnesses.

PHFs may be kept in danger zone for more than 4 hours. This will allow harmful bacteria to grow over the food. Thus, it is vital for the customer to know till when exactly this food can be consumed.
It is advisable that at discard time, PHFs must be removed from the service.


Non-hazardous foods can be defined as food products with a relatively low water content, protein content, and less acidic which restricts the rapid growth of harmful bacteria for food safety.

In other words, non-hazardous food can be defined as those foods which remain safe for consumption without time or temperature control measures. Some examples of non-hazardous foods are jelly, jam, dried mixes, candy, and all other foods that are out of the category of potentially hazardous food.


As per the United States Department of Agriculture, organic products are those products that foster resource cycling, promote ecological balance, maintain and improve soil and water quality, minimize the use of synthetic material and conserve biodiversity through its agricultural production practices in the food delivery chain.

Food labeling for such products is mentioned on both the front panel and information panel of the product package. The Principal Display Panel (PDP) is the front panel where customer focusses at the time of purchasing the product. Information Panel contains ingredient list of the product from highest to lowest percentage of the final product for food safety.


Processed foods can be defined as any food which is cooked, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition. Any food which is cooked, baked or prepared can be referred as processed food. Processed foods are often considered bad for diet and balanced nutrition. They are believed to promote obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Processed-free labels food as the products which preserve their nutrition value, promote balanced diet and are healthy to consume. These labels clearly mention the food as 'Processed-free' and customers must refer to such tags on the food labeling.

Refrigerate After-Freezing

Refrigeration normally slows down growth of micro-organism. 1-5 degrees Celsius is temperature in refrigerator while it is -18 degrees Celsius is maintained which makes the growth of micro-organisms completely inactive. But storing food below this temperature affects flavour, minerals and nutrient content of the food. It also destroys the texture and structure of the food.
Refrigerate After-Freezing food labeling informs customers about food handling.

Refrigerate After Thaw

As per United States Department of Agriculture, food thawed in refrigerator is safe if it is refreeze without cooking. Though, it may lose some quality due to loss of moisture during the process of thawing.
Refrigerate after Thaw food labeling informs customers about the product and its ingredient with its production process. Therefore, kindly following the instruction on the food label may maintain the nutritional value and quality of the food product.

Food safety is a serious matter.

The labels on food packaging can be confusing, and it’s hard to know what’s safe to eat.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 5 required food label components?
The FDA has a lot of regulations when it comes to what can and cannot be advertised or labeled. The same goes for food; there are laws regarding what is allowed to be advertised as food, as well as what information must be listed on the packaging of that food.
What is labeling in food safety?
Labeling food with its country of origin and other key identifiers is beneficial for consumers. It helps them identify the products from various origins and trace them back to their source. However, not all labeling can be considered beneficial. Some labeling practices can be misleading to consumers. We will look at some of the common labeling issues in food safety and how you can avoid them.
What is required to be on food labels?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict rules about what can be included on food labels and what can't. These restrictions are in place to protect consumers from harmful or misleading labels. If a label contains any of the following, it can mislead consumers about the product, its value, or its health risks. Let's take a closer look at what is required to be on food labels.
What 3 things are required on food labels?
You've probably seen images of food labels on social media, and even in magazines, and wondered what they mean. Are those pictures just for decoration, or do those labels actually have something to say about the product? In this article, we'll break down the basics of nutrition labels and what they mean for you and your family.