Could You Lose a Customer Over a Pickle? New Food Labeling Guidelines Help Educate Consumers

Posted on 17th Aug 2017

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to issue new federal food labeling guidelines in 2018. In general, the guidelines, which may also be referred to as food and nutrition facts labels, will require any chain restaurant with 20 or more U.S. locations operating under the same business name, to include food labeling that shows nutritional information such as calories, fat and saturated fat content, sodium, and protein.

Additionally, the labeling will include a “recommended intake” statement, which refers to such things as the Recommended Dietary Allowances of a product. While this can vary with the person's age, the goal is to educate consumers on the level of nutrients in a standard serving of food in relation to their approximate requirement for it.

Along with educating consumers about nutritional information and the ingredients in the food items they select, the FDA’s nutrition facts label guidelines have another major goal:

The new food labeling guidelines are designed to help prevent obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other conditions and illness that are now viewed as “nutrient-related.”

This is also happening at a time when consumers are becoming more concerned about the ingredients in the food products they select. For instance, one recent survey of people who reported they are watching their weight found that 81 percent read food labels before making a product selection. And of those consumers that are not diet focused, 71 percent said they also read food labels, such as the food labels found on a grab-and-go food item.

Consequently, this makes the accuracy of these labels very important. In fact, inaccurate or unreliable information on a food label has the potential of compromising customer loyalty and tarnishing a brand’s name.

And this can happen as quickly as using the wrong sized pickle as a garnishment on a grab-and-go food item.

Let's say a food retailer is using DayMark’s new recipe management system powered by Nutritics, and the recipe calls for adding half a pickle garnishment to a grab-and-go food product. But the preparer ignores the recipe and includes a full pickle.

In such a case, the sodium content on the label might be heavily understated. This could have negative consequences for someone with heart disease or high blood pressure who has been told to limit their sodium intake.

There are other examples as well.

Once again, we find our same kitchen preparer adding two tablespoons of oil while preparing a food item when the recipe management system only calls for one. This could incorrectly increase the calorie count of the finished product just because of one extra tablespoon of oil.

These “simple” errors have the potential to cause serious problems for customers’ health, and for the food retailer’s reputation if they become known as a provider of inaccurate food labeling information. But, these problems can all be avoided if food preparers, processors, and retailers adhere to steps such as the following:

  • Train staff to follow all recipe protocols; this is most easily accomplished by using a recipe management system.
  • If recipe changes are made, select a recipe management/nutrition labeling system that can quickly analyze individual nutrients such as calories, sodium, sugar, vitamins, glycemic index and provide an updated recipe analysis when labels are printed. Cloud-based recipe and menu management systems tend to be more accurate because recipe information can be automatically updated.
  • If developing new recipes, remember that evaporation, absorption, and different cooking methods can all impact nutrient values on a food product; in such cases, a dietitian may need to be called in for assistance.

For more information on the FDA’s recipe management and menu-labeling guidelines, and food labeling systems, contact a DayMark Safety Systems representative.

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