In the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s long Code of Federal Regulations document, Title 21 outlines food-labeling requirements. There are several exemptions to the list of which foods must be labeled with nutritional information, including many artisan cheeses. Fresh fruits and veggies, food served in restaurants, and items sold “ready to eat”—such as bread loaves at the farmers’ market—are other examples.
Many small-batch artisan cheesemakers aren’t required to list nutritional info on their products for two reasons: First, a company that employs fewer than 100 people and produces fewer than 100,000 units of whatever form the cheese is sold in (i.e. a wheel or a tub) falls under the low-volume exemption to Title 21. Additionally, cheeses displayed or sold in small pieces at a farmers’ market or cut-to-order at a cheese counter are included in the ready-to-eat exemption.
If a producer makes a nutritional claim about its wedges and wheels, however, such as “contains probiotic cultures,” “low-fat,” or “reduced-sodium,” nutritional labeling is mandated, no matter the size of the company. Yet these same cheeses may be sold at a cut-to-order counter without nutritional labeling appearing on the package as long as the information is available to the customer elsewhere, such as in a booklet or on a tag.
To be safe, cheesemakers should check with their dairy inspectors before labeling products. State regulators and/or the FDA may require a creamery to list a cheese’s provenance or ingredients, depending on where and how the cheese will be sold.
Feature Photo Credit: Lisa Kelly