Turning the family recipe into a business: Labeling food products when they’re not cottage food

If your family recipe is not a cottage food, labeling it correctly to sell it at the farmer’s market or grocery store means following guidelines developed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

When you pick up packages at the grocery store, you can count on the same basic information being provided on each package. This labeling standard comes from both state and federal government requirements.

The front of the package is formally called the “primary display panel” (PDP). The PDP should have the statement of identify that identifies the usual name of the food, such as “cereal,” and the net quantity statement such as “Net Wt. 103.4 oz (305 g).” The PDP is also where the company name is usually located.

The information panel is located to the immediate right of the PDP when the consumer is facing the product. The information panel needs to have the following six elements:

  1. The name and address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor
  2. The ingredient statement in descending order by the proportion of its weight in the recipe
  3. The nutrition facts
  4. Allergen information
  5. A sell-by-date if it is a packaged food with a shelf life of greater than 90 days
  6. A meaningful code that allows identification of a particular lot

Claims such as “low fat,” “sodium free,” “a good source for,” “high in,” etc. must all follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for the percentage of that nutrient that must be identified on the nutrition label to make such a claim.

The term “organic” usually requires that the product must meet state and federal organic certification requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Organic Program.

Labeling guidelines in Michigan stem from the Michigan Food Law. The Michigan Food Law is based on the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 21. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is responsible for ensuring that products sold in Michigan are labeled correctly, regardless of where they are sold in Michigan.

For more detailed information, visit these sites:

The Michigan State University (MSU) Product Center provides nutrition labels and assistance to help Michigan entrepreneurs develop and commercialize high-value, consumer–responsive products and businesses in the value-added agriculture, food, and natural resources sectors. For more information, visit the Product Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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