Label Law and Legal Definition

In law, label means

  • Any writing that is attached or annexed to a larger writing. For example, a codicil added to a will.
  • A narrow slip of paper or parchment which is attached to a deed or writ for holding the appended seal.
  • In trademarks, label refers to an informative display of written, printed or graphic matter like a logo or title, affixed to goods or services for identifying their source. A label can be fixed on the wrapping, packaging or container of a manufactured product or on the packaging or surface of a natural substance.

Law specifies specific labeling requirements for each product. The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966 regulates packaging and labeling. The act requires that every product package specify on its "principal display label"—that part of the label most likely to be seen by consumers—the following information: 1) the product type; 2) the producer or processor's name and location; 3) the quantity (if applicable); and 4) the number and size of servings (if applicable).

Furthermore, several restrictions apply to the way that the label is displayed. For example, mandatory copy required by the act must be in boldface type. Also, if the company is not listed in the telephone book, the manufacturers or importer's street address must be displayed.

Foods, toys, drugs, cosmetics, furs, and textiles require special labeling. Under the act, the label for edible products, for example, must provide sodium content if other nutritional information is also shown. Labels must also show ingredients, in descending order from the one of highest quantity to the one of least quantity. Certain food items, such as beef, may also be required to display qualitative "grade labels" or inspection labels. Likewise, "informative labeling" may be required for products such as home appliances. Informative label requirements mandate information about use, care, performance capability, life expectancy, safety precautions, gas mileage, or other factors. Certain major home appliances, for example, must provide the estimated cost of running each make and model for one year at average utility rates.

Congress passed significant new labeling legislation, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990; the act became effective in the mid-1990s. This act is intended primarily to discourage misleading labeling related to health benefits of food items. Many package labels subjectively claimed that their contents were "low-fat," "high-fiber," or possessed some other health virtue when the facts indicated otherwise. Basically, the new laws require most food labels to specify values such as calorie and cholesterol content, fat and saturated fat percentages, and sodium levels.

Example of a State statute (Georgia) defining label

O.C.G.A. § 2-7-52 [ Official Code of Georgia Annotated; Title 2. Agriculture; Chapter 7. Plant disease, pest control, and pesticides; Article 2. Control of pesticides] defines Label in the context of pesticides as follows

"Label" means the written, printed, or graphic matter on or attached to the pesticide or device or any of its containers or wrappers.