A Cheese Producers Guide to Labeling
Cheese labeling has it’s own unique set of specifications set forth by the Department of Food Safety in the state of origin. Producers are challenged with not only creating a label that provides brand identity and shelf appeal but also contains all the necessary components of a proper nutrition label. By following these guidelines, you will be able to produce a cheese product label that will meet food safety requirements with ease.
NAME OF PRODUCT: First, name your product with either a “Standard of identity” name, the common or usual name of the food or an appropriately descriptive term. The standard of identity must be used if the cheese fits the standard. Examples of standard of identity names include: Cheddar Cheese, Monterey Jack Cheese, Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese Common or usual names like String Cheese, Farmers Cheese, Farmers Pepper Cheese, Low-Moisture, Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese. A semisoft cheese spiced or flavored standardized cheeses should be labeled with the spice at the beginning or the end of the cheese name. The spice or flavor name must not be between the cheese variety and the word “cheese”. Examples include Caraway Colby Cheese, Salami Cheddar Cheese, Colby Cheese with Caraway, Cheddar Cheese with Salami (the word cheese must be included in the name of the product). The name of the product must be in a type size that is 50 % the height of the largest print on the label and generally parallel to the base of the package. All words in the name need to be given equal prominence. You cannot make the word cheese or the variety of the cheese used stand out more than the rest of the name. Any optional ingredients that are required to be declared on the label should not be given greater prominence than the name of the food.
NET QUANTITY OF CONTENTS: Next, determine the quantity of your cheese product. The total quantity must be located on the front of the package (the principal display panel). This includes random weight packages. The quantity must be stated in US Customary (e.g., pounds and ounces) and metric units EXCEPT for random weight packages that are labeled at retail. These packages are exempt from the requirements for metric units. When a product exceeds 16 ounces, the net quantity of contents needs to be stated in the largest whole unit (e.g., pound, pint, quart, gallon) and the remaining ounces.
NUTRITION INFORMATION: Next, fill in your nutrition facts panel. The Full Format Nutrition Facts panel must be used on packages where the available labeling space is greater than 40 square inches. Single packs of slices, 6 ounce cups of shredded cheese, half moon blocks and large wedges are all package sizes that usually fit this size requirement. If there is less than 40 square inches of label space, the following are allowed in descending order of preference. 1. The column (vertical) display. The table at the bottom is replaced with a sentence stating, “Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.” 2. The tabular display 2. The linear (or string) format of the Nutrition Facts panel. Linear may only be used on packages when the package cannot accommodate a tabular display on any panel. Please note that cheese companies in particular are using the linear format with increasing frequency because they prefer how it looks on the label. This is undesirable and does not comply with NLEA requirements. The label is often designed this way because the companies do not want to use two labels. Remember that Nutrition Facts panels are based on the total available labeling space on the package. For cheese, this is the wrapped block minus the seams.
SERVING SIZE: Once you have completed your full nutrition panel, you must determine the serving size. The serving size could be measured in ounces or by a visual description must be used e.g. 1 ounce (28 g/about 1” cube). For random weight packages, the servings per container should be stated as “varied.” For exact weight packages, servings per container should equal the net weight divided by the serving size. The servings should be rounded to the nearest whole number except those that are between 2 and 5 servings should be rounded to the nearest 0.5 servings. Rounding should be indicated by the word “about.”
INGREDIENTS STATEMENT: In most cases, ingredients must be listed in descending order of predominance by weight (most to least). To learn more about whether your cheese qualifies for ingredient statement exemptions click here. Cheese producers must use full standard of identity names and common or usual names of the ingredients. Common or Usual Names for Typical Ingredients Used in Dairy Products Ingredient Common or Usual Name skim milk, concentrated skim milk, reconstituted skim, and nonfat dry milk ” skim milk” or “nonfat milk”, concentrated milk, reconstituted milk, and dry whole milk “milk” bacteria culture “cultured ____”(the blank is filled in with the name of the milk used) sweet cream buttermilk, concentrated sweet cream buttermilk, reconstituted sweet cream buttermilk and dried sweet cream buttermilk “buttermilk ” whey, and concentrated whey are common ingredients. All sub-ingredients must be listed. Do not use extra words in the ingredient statement e.g. diced (as in diced peppers), whole (as in whole milk), fresh (as in fresh basil) All added colors result in an artificially colored food. No added color can be declared as “food” or “natural” color. Cheese cannot be called “natural” if it has annatto color. Food ingredients such as garlic, onion and celery cannot be included under the collective term “spice.” They must be listed individually. “Herb” and “herbs” can not be used as collective terms in an ingredient statement. Use the word “spice” or list all spices by name.
For more information about labeling cheese products, visit the Vermont Department of Agriculture. To learn more about having cheese label preprinted for wax and non wax coated products, contact ImageTek Labels.
* Article content was sourced by the T and Wisconsin Agricultural Department approved standards for cheese product labeling.