FDA Compliance for Retail Food Products

I’ve been hearing a lot of similar questions lately regarding FDA compliance for food retail products. The regulations for compliance are lengthy, and can be confusing and overwhelming to any packaged food business. Here we’ve complied our most commonly asked general questions on the topic. To go deeper be sure to check out all our topics on FDA food labeling compliance here.


Does my retail food product need to be fully compliant?

Yes, all retail food items are required to comply with the FDA food labeling guidelines. That does not mean that all food packages must be fully labeled with everything from ingredients to nutrition facts to statement of identity, though many if not most are required to. There are many exemptions contained within the FDA’s guidelines, and these exceptions have clearly defined requirements that must be followed as well.

My food product is only sold online, does it need to comply with the FDA’s food labeling guidelines?

Yes, all retail food products must be compliant whether sold online or in a physical store.

I see many food packages, even a competitor’s products, that don’t appear to comply with the FDA’s requirements. Do my products still need to be FDA compliant?

Yes, your retail food products are required to be fully FDA compliant, even if your competitor is not. There are many food products in retail that aren’t compliant. Read on to find out what can happen to a food product that isn’t FDA compliant.

Keep in mind too that you may see products that don’t appear to be compliant but actually are, due to the many exemptions contained within the FDA’s guidelines that you may not be familiar with.

What happens if my product is is not FDA compliant and it comes under FDA scrutiny?

If your product is not compliant and the FDA notices it, there are two things that can happen:

1) If the errors appear to be unintentional, the FDA will send a letter notifying you that the errors need to be fixed right away.

2) If the errors appear to deceive the consumer, then the FDA can fine you, and you need to correct the errors right away.

Even without a fine, the unexpected cost to correct the errors can be steep, and can ultimately be damaging to a business. It’s far better to invest in compliance up front to ensure your business won’t be derailed in the future.

Does the FDA look at every food product for compliance?

No, it would be impossible for the FDA to police every single food product that is on the market. Furthermore they do not do food labeling reviews themselves. However, the FDA has disclosed that they do random checks for food labeling compliance. A food product can also come under FDA scrutiny if it is reported by the public.

Does Jenn David Design do FDA compliance reviews?

Yes, we do. If we are designing your product’s packaging, then following the FDA food labeling guidelines is a part of our work. If you already have a food package that is about to go into production—or better yet, if your package is still in development—we can perform an FDA compliance review. Our expertise in retail food packaging requirements means that you don’t have to pore over all 132 pages of the FDA’s food labeling guidelines.

Do you have a question that we haven’t answered here? Note it below in the comments!

FDA food packaging claims

This article/blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice nor does it substitute for your reading and reviewing the applicable language from the FDA, CBP or COOL regulations or obtaining advice from the appropriate professional regarding what is and is not required by the FDA regulations. This article/blog is not intended to provide advice and direction on how to comply with the FDA requirements. The reader of this article/blog is urged to read the FDA regulations and/or obtain the appropriate professional advice on the FDA regulations. No professional, business or other advisory or economic relationship is created herein, and in some states these materials may be considered advertising.

Hi, I’m Jenn David Connolly, creative strategist and founder of Jenn David Design. For over 20 years I’ve partnered with specialty food brands to create powerful, distinct, strategic design that commands attention and gets results.

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4 responses to “FDA Compliance for Retail Food Products

  1. Hi Jenn,
    I came across your website while trying to wade through pages and pages of FDA regulations on the processing, packaging of a ginger tea beverage. My recipe is rather simple. Peruvian Organic Ginger Root and water. Wow! Imagine that! i would like to scale up my business and in doing so, still meet FDA regulations for retail. It seemed to me that the place to start was an analysis of my tea and then an FDA compliant packaging design. Once I know what I have, I think I can build my production facility accordingly. I haven’t a clue as to where I should go to have my ginger tea analyzed, so I can provide you with the necessary information to produce a label. Any ideas?

    As you’ve had experience in this area, can you provide me with your process and some rough financial guidelines to come up with an FDA compliant label for a 16oz plastic bottle of pasteurized organic ginger tea?

  2. Laurie says:

    If my ingredients are listed beside nutritional facts chart, could my package design continue behind ingredient text? I know it is not allowed to run through nutritional facts chart

    1. Hi Laurie,

      No “intervening material” is allowed between the required information on the information panel. A background pattern or divider lines for example would be perceived as intervening material. Solid background is fine, but the required information should still be next to each other. Hope this helps!

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