Is there really any difference between "label" and "labeling"? According to the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, the answer is yes.
- Label is defined as the "written printed or graphic material on the immediate package." Most food labels are regulated by FDA, unless it's for a USDA regulated product.
- Labeling means "all labels and other written, printed, or graphic matters upon any article or any of its containers or wrappers, or accompanying such article." In other words, labeling encompasses both the label and all accompanying material on or near the package, including material at the point of purchase. FDA/USDA and FTC share responsibility for food labeling.
Let's consider some examples:
Hang tag - This is part of the label and it is also labeling. A hang tag must comply with all FDA/USDA requirements and if there is any issue with non-compliance, FDA/USDA and/or FTC will step in to remedy the situation.
Shelf tag - This is accompanying material at the point of purchase and must comply with FDA/USDA regulations. Non-compliance issues would be handled by FDA/USDA and/or FTC.
Print or TV advertising - While any advertising claims must comply with FDA/USDA requirements as defined in the Code of Federal Regulations, non-compliance issues are policed by FTC.
Bullseye: FDA/USDA generally has authority over labels and labeling, though when false claims are made in advertising or promotional material, FTC will get involved. In general, FTC levies harsher penalties and bigger fines. This underscores the importance of companies to follow all requirements for labels, labeling and promotional material to ensure communication is truthful and not misleading.