Understanding Food Labeling Requirements for Foods with Preservatives or Additives

Understanding food labeling requirements, particularly for foods with preservatives or additives, is crucial for both consumers and food manufacturers. For consumers, it helps them make informed decisions about the food they consume. For manufacturers, it ensures compliance with legal requirements and helps build trust with consumers. This article will delve into the legal requirements regarding food labeling when foods include preservatives or additives.

What are Food Additives and Preservatives?

Food additives and preservatives are substances added to food to enhance its taste, appearance, or shelf life. Additives include colorings, flavorings, sweeteners, and emulsifiers, while preservatives prevent food spoilage caused by microbes.

What are the General Food Labeling Requirements?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), all food labels must include the following information:

  • The name of the food product
  • The net quantity of the food product
  • The name and address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor
  • The list of ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight

What are the Specific Labeling Requirements for Foods with Additives or Preservatives?

For foods with additives or preservatives, the FDA requires that these substances be listed on the label by their common or usual name. If an additive has no common name, a descriptive name must be used. The FDA also requires that the purpose of the additive or preservative be stated on the label, such as “preservative” or “to maintain freshness”.

Are there any Exceptions to these Requirements?

Yes, there are exceptions. For instance, incidental additives that are present in a food at insignificant levels and do not have any technical or functional effect in that food are exempted from the labeling requirement. Also, certain spices, flavorings, and colorings can be listed collectively without naming each one.

What are the Penalties for Non-compliance?

Non-compliance with food labeling requirements can result in penalties ranging from warning letters to product seizures, injunctions, and criminal prosecutions. The FDA regularly inspects food labels for compliance and takes enforcement action when necessary.


Understanding food labeling requirements for foods with preservatives or additives is essential for ensuring food safety and making informed dietary choices. It’s also crucial for food manufacturers to comply with these requirements to avoid penalties and maintain consumer trust.