What is a food label?
Food labels tell people important information about the food and drink they are consuming – to help them know which food and drink is right for them, and if it is safe for them to eat or drink.
Food served in a café doesn't come with a label on it. So if the customer wants to know about an ingredient, the café staff must have accurate information available from their supplier. There are rules about the information that must be provided with food supplied to caterers and food service businesses.
You must label your food so it meets the rules of the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code. You could be fined, or your product could be recalled, if you label your product incorrectly.
Use our guide and checklists to help you.
If your packaged food is labelled for retail sale, you do not need to add anything further if it's sold to caterers.
Food sold to caterers that doesn't need a label
These foods do not need a label:
- unpackaged food
- whole or cut fresh fruit and vegetables in transparent packages (excluding sprouts).
However, some information must still be provided to the customer by documentation with the food.
What must be on the package label
Your food label must:
- be part of or attached to the food
- be easy to read
- be written in English
- have the right information to meet the rules of the food standards code, the Fair Trading Act, and Weights and Measures Act.
Identifying your food
Your food label must clearly have:
- a lot/batch identification: to enable you to trace your product if it needs to be recalled
- an accurate name or description of the food: Some foods (for example, processed meat, honey, and infant formula) must use the exact names from the food standards code.
- the name and physical address of your New Zealand or Australian business: A PO box, website, or email address by itself is not enough.
These must be on the outer packaging of the food if there is more than one layer of packaging.
Ensuring safety of your product
Your food label must clearly have a date mark for foods with a shelf life of less than 2 years. You need to write this as one of the following:
- Use by: if the food could make people sick if consumed after a certain date.
- Best before: if the food declines in quality but is still safe to be consumed.
- Bkd on/Bkd for: if your product is bread with a shelf life of less than 7 days.
You must also include any specific food storage instructions needed to keep the food safe to eat for the duration of the shelf life.
Food warning and advisory statements
Some ingredients or foods need to be avoided by some people. This could be because they have an allergy or because they are pregnant. Products that contain these ingredients need to include a statement on their label.
There are 3 types of statements:
- Allergy declaration: ingredients that can cause allergic reactions for some people.
- Warning statement: only applies to some types of food (such as royal jelly and kava).
- Advisory statement: applies to certain foods or ingredients which may cause health risks for some consumers.
Amount of food
Your packaging must state how much food it contains in an appropriate unit of measure (for example kg, g, ml, l) in text 2mm or bigger.
Alcoholic drinks need the number of standard drinks and alcohol by volume (%Alc/Vol). Any other food requires a %Alc/Vol statement when more than 1.15% Alc/Vol.
Irradiated and genetically modified food
You must state if any part of your food has been irradiated or genetically modified.
Other information that must be provided with food sold to a caterer
In addition to the label, other information must be provided for some foods sold to caterers. This includes:
- ingredients list
- nutrition information panel
- labelling requirements for specific foods (refer to Chapter 2 of the food standards code).
Who to contact
If you have questions about labelling food sold to caterers, email email@example.com