Food-Safe Label Materials for Direct Food Contact

Whenever you label a food product, one of the first things you should determine is whether the label will have direct or indirect food contact. ‘Direct food contact’ means that the label material – specifically, the adhesive – will be touching the raw food product, such as fresh fruit and produce. ‘Indirect food contact’ means that there will be no contact between the label material and food product, which is typically seen with processed foods that are packaged in a jar, bag, bottle, etc.

Who Regulates Direct Food Contact Labels?

Average label adhesives can be considered unsafe to apply directly onto a raw food product, so it’s important that you select your label materials with care – especially if your custom labels will have direct contact with food.

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates what types of label and adhesive materials may be used in direct food contact for fruits, vegetables and other fresh food products. These materials are commonly used for logo stickers, Price Look-Up (PLU) codes, and flexible packaging.

Following Proper FDA Guidelines

Some label materials may meet the requirements of one or more FDA regulations – but not all. The label regulations you will need to follow depend on your product and where you expect to put the food label. For example, a label used on an orange or banana peel is considered an “indirect food additive” because the actual food stuff is not affected by the adhesive elements on the peel. However, the label is still considered a “food contact substance,” and falls under a separate set of FDA guidelines.

We offer an assortment of safe food label materials we can print with, and even carry a few of these stocks in our inventory to reduce lead times. Material selection can be a complicated process, and completely unique to both the nature of the product and the label design. Call our customer service team today, and we will be glad to discuss and recommend the best materials for your product.


Additional Resources

If you’d like to know more about FDA regulations on label materials and adhesives for direct food contact labeling, refer to Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. Specifically, Part 175.

175.105 refers to the qualified components for use as adhesives:

175.125 refers to qualified pressure-sensitive adhesives:

  • See section A for labels used in poultry and dry-food, as well as processed, frozen, dried, or partially dehydrated fruits and vegetables.
  • See section B for labels used for raw fruit and raw vegetables.