How Do Mistakes in Food Labeling Happen?


Mistakes in food labeling  – avoid a recall nightmare.

When your labeling process breaks down or malfunctions it can cost you way too much time and money.

It is estimated that 60% of recalls are due to labeling errors and packaging art.

Labeling and packaging errors can also result in premature spoiling, cross-contamination, consumer illness, and fatalities if the error involves allergen information.

Three Common Mistakes in Food Labeling

In order to avoid mistakes in food labeling, let’s explore common ways they can happen in the first place.

#1 Misinformation on Labels

In the food industry labels must contain information such as:

  • name of product
  • name and address of the manufacturer
  • list and quantity of ingredients
  • Sell-by / best before/ expiration date

Errors in any of this information can cause major interruptions in the packaging process and result in total recalls. Common mistakes include:

  • spelling mistakes
  • two similar labels placed on the wrong product
  • an incorrect label on the incorrect side of the product
  • poor or wrong translation from one language to another

SOLUTION: Automate as much of the labeling process as you can, including updating variable data. Read: Need To Automate And Not Sure How?

#2 Last Minute Information and Promotional Activities

The food industry is constantly changing and updating. Therefore, companies need to adapt and respond to these changes quickly and often at the last minute. These types of time constraints leave a lot of room for error. Every country is different, but last-minute information could include:

  • a difference in the number of ingredients used in the food processing of a product
  • any new additives
  • change in name or address of the manufacturer

Basically, any information on the packaging and labeling can be changed, however, it always needs to be correct.

Common errors that occur are:

  • Missing info. Required last-minute information isn’t added to the labeling and packaging.
  • Barcode errors. Using the wrong barcode on forgetting a barcode altogether.
  • Mispackaging products. Putting the wrong items in a package. For example, Nestle’s KitKat Original Milk Chocolate Bites were mispacked with KitKat Peanut Butter Bites. This led to a recall because that KitKat batch mistakenly had nuts, which is an allergen, and was not stated on the label or packaging.

If these types of errors happen a total recall MUST occur. 

Typically, the production team is told about the promotion at the last minute or when the packaging arrives (before production starts). This causes pressure on the production team, which leads to a lack of clarity around when the promotion was meant to start and finish. This leaves a lot of room for error and is why promotional information is a top reason for packaging error.

All countries agree that advertisements, endorsements, and promotions cannot be false or exaggerated – especially when it comes to food.

SOLUTION: Automate as much of the labeling process as possible. Read Automated Packaging

#3. Human Error

On average 25% to 50% of total recalls are due to human error.

When this is determined it means that a company followed procedures but an individual had the means to prevent or correct the error but didn’t.

In order to keep a brand consistent, a company probably uses very similar-looking labels for all of its products. This can make it hard to tell one label from another. In a high-speed manufacturing environment, it is very easy for a human to pick the wrong label for a product from a big selection of labels.

SOLUTION: Automate as much of your labeling process as possible with the right type of software and equipment. Use a system that can change variable data on the fly and still ensure it is being applied to the proper products. Read Tips For Better Barcode Labeling

The Wrap Up

Individuals up and down the supply chain make errors every day. However, manufactures still need to feel confident that their systems can detect, prevent and correct these errors. Putting automated systems in place to check labeling and packaging is a huge step in the right direction. It isn’t 100% fool-proof (we are still human) but it will help!

Can we help you with a better labeling system to reduce errors and recalls?

Contact us today to get started. Call us at 888.972.5234 or email

For more information on PaladinID


Get Help With Your Next Label Project

We have over 35 years of providing exceptional service and labeling products to the world.  Take the first step to an easy, stress-free solution for your label needs by contacting us.

Schedule a call below or email

Make Your Mark

“Making companies more competitive by offering the correct label printing solution, on time, within budget, while creating unmatched value”.

About PaladinID, LLC
PaladinID develops and supports high-performance barcode labeling applications. We work with our clients to “Make Your Mark” by providing the expertise and tools necessary to create an entire product label printing solution. Located in central New Hampshire, PaladinID has been serving Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New England, and beyond for over 30 years, and in 2017, became an RFID-certified company. We look forward to working with you.

You may be interested in our other services:

Product Labels

Product Labels

Labels for every type of application: Blank, Pre-printed, Variable data

Label Printers

Label Printers

We sell and support: Direct/thermal transfer, Inkjet, Laser

Printer Ribbons

Printer Ribbons

We sell ribbons for ALL barcode printers including: Zebra, Datamax, Sato, Intermec

Flexible Packaging

Flexible Packaging

We offer a wide variety of packaging containers for your products.

Label Software

Label Software

Software for all barcode printing and product labeling.

Label applicators

Label Applicators

Wide selection of applicators: Desktop/Mobile, Applicator only, Print & apply