Food and beverage producers have to keep a close eye on the way they label their items. This much hasn't changed over the past few years. The exact nature of ingredient disclosure has been in constant flux, however. Several different changes to labeling laws have passed in recent years. The transition from the Obama administration to Trump has brought with it even more uncertainty, as regulations have stalled on their road to widespread adoption.
There are two takeaways from this spate of new and proposed concepts for companies to grapple with. First, leaders will have to internalize all these new demands and deadlines. Second, companies have to keep the door open to future changes and not prepare their labels and packaging too far in advance.
Multiple Rules Moving Forward
A recent Food Safety Tech overview checked in on several of the labeling regulations set to affect U.S. companies. This includes disclosure rules for bioengineered foods, the Nutrition Facts panel and expiration dates. Each of these proposals is at a different point on its timeline and seems poised to have its own impact on the way companies package their products.
For example, the rules around bioengineering and genetically modified organisms have passed Congress and the finalized form they take is being determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency hopes to implement rules on July 2018, according to Food Safety Tech. The actual date for complying with those rules could follow the same timeline as the nutritional facts update. That date is currently set for January 1, 2020, but could change.
As for standardized date labels, the source stated that this effort remains mandatory. That said, widespread support for the new style is expected, and date labels could be addressed directly in the upcoming farm bill.
Detail on GMO Labels
Among the three changes described above, GMO disclosure may represent the biggest development. Packaging Digest explained the current status of this rule, explaining that there will be three possible styles of label allowed: Companies can state a food's GMO status via text, a symbol or a scannable QR code. Furthermore, small companies can use a website or phone number for disclosure purposes. Adapting to this new requirement could represent a notable labeling priority for a business of any size.
The Need to Respond
There are many new label priorities coming down the pipeline. Food and beverage manufacturers will have to be ready to comply with each unveiled regulation in turn. They can gain agility by adding in-house label printers such as the Primera LX1000, available from Argon in the U.S. and in Canada.