Authored by Lawrence Reichman
Recognizing that much of the food that has been packaged for sale to restaurants and other food service establishments cannot be used by them during the COVID-19 pandemic, both the FDA and the USDA have temporarily relaxed their labeling rules to permit such products to be sold to consumers. In all cases, the food must still comply with most of the labeling requirements for retail sales, with the significant exception of nutrition facts (unless a nutrition claim is made on the package) and, in the case of USDA-regulated products, the official mark of inspection. Depending on how the food is already labeled, it may be able to be sold at retail without additional labeling; alternatively, the manufacturer—or in some circumstances, the retail seller—may apply a label that complies with the remaining requirements. The FDA also permits manufacturers to continue to manufacture food for retail distribution in food-service packaging, whereas the USDA’s policy applies only to food already in the market.
The FDA’s March 26, 2020 announcement and guidance document is available here. The USDA’s March 23, 2020 announcement is available here.