Wholesale Foods May Be Relabeled for Retail Market

FDA and USDA OK temporary label changes during coronavirus crisis.

April 02, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—As many foodservice operations close or reduce hours, food products originally produced for restaurants, hotels, schools and other establishments are being rerouted to retailers and wholesalers. But before arriving in stores, they need labels that are approved for these new channels, reports BevNet.com.

The Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture hope to expedite the process with new guidance published this week. Major companies, such as Tyson Food and Kraft Heinz, are currently adjusting production lines to create smaller pack sizes instead of bulk food items. But other manufacturers, particularly those that only serve the foodservice industry, may not be able to do that.

To keep food supplies flowing and help manufacturers offload excess product, the FDA and USDA are permitting retailers to label items rerouted from foodservice. “Because many manufacturers practice ‘just in time’ manufacturing, they may have sufficient ingredients on hand to produce additional product, but not enough packaging materials to label the product for retail sale,” the FDA announced in guidance this week.

Also, restaurants can sell perishable and non-perishable food, including ingredients, directly to manufacturers and consumers even though the products use a different format for Nutrition Facts panels.

In the guidance, the FDA states the items must contain the following: no nutrition claims; a statement of identity; an ingredient statement; the name and place of business of the food manufacturer, packer, or distributor; net quantity, and allergen information required by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act. Restaurants can create the labels, or a manufacturer can provide them.

The guidance does not apply to prepared restaurant food, because restaurants follow food safety requirements similar to those of the FDA.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service guidance, which was issued on Monday and covers the next 60 days, allows meat or poultry products labeled for a specific restaurant or institution use, as well as labeled food with protective coverings already in commerce, to be repackaged into smaller consumer sizes and labeled by retailers. These products must include all USDA nutrition facts, but the USDA inspection mark is not required.

“FSIS recognizes an immediate need to have meat and poultry products that were originally intended for hotels, restaurants, and institutions to be diverted for retail sale to meet consumer demand,” a spokesperson said.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.