Re: Overview of Nutrient Labeling
Date: 03/16/01

Dear Dr. G:

You requested that I provide you with my legal opinion regarding the statements that are permitted on labels and literature for dietary

Such labels and literature are governed by statutes and regulations enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The primary statute is the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). This act classifies statements about Dietary Supplements in to four categories:

1. General Wellness Claims -- such claims may be made so long as they meet
the FTC standard of "truthful and not misleading." The distributor must have
adequate "prior substantiation" for such claims.

2. Structure and Function Claims -- these are claims about the relationship
between nutrients and normal body structure and function. The same standard
applies to them and FDA regulations require that a Statement of Claims be
filed with the FDA within 30 days of first making a specific claim. The FDA
reviews these claims solely to see if the language used states a Structure and
Function Claim, but does not evaluate the adequacy of the substantiation.
See: Rule on Botanicals in Dietary Supplements Labels

3. Health Claims / Qualified Health Claims -- these claims characterize the relationship between a nutrient and a disease or health condition. Such claims may not be made
unless the FDA has given prior approval and a formal Petition is required.
See: FDA allows qualified health claims.

4. Medical Claims -- claims to diagnose, treat, prevent, mitigate, or cure
disease are not permitted. Such claims result in the nutrient being treated
as a "drug" and requiring full FDA drug approval.

The statute requires certain statements and disclaimers for a substance to qualify as a Dietary Supplement. The product label must state "Dietary Supplement" and the label must state: "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, mitigate or cure disease." It is not advisable to make any claims whatsoever on the actual product label. If the claim you make is improper, the product will be seized if the claim is on the bottle label, but if only on accompanying literature, the literature can be replaced. The bottle label must also include a proper ingredient list that conforms to specific regulations (your contract manufacturer or label printer will be able to make sure your label conforms to these regulations).

Any product literature must also have the FDA disclaimer (as stated above) and is subject to the FTC "truthful and not misleading" rule.

To help marketers comply, the FTC has published, on the Internet, a Guideline for Nutrient Marketers and the FDA has published extensive commentaries on the Structure and Function Rule and the Health Claims Rule. FDA & FTC Requirements.

You may not put any statement on Dietary Supplement labels such as "FDA approved" since the FDA does not approve Dietary Supplement claims and ingredients. The FDA states, on its web site, that nutrients are governed by different rules than foods and drugs, and that marketers must, in the first instance, ensure that the products are safe. The FDA usually only steps in when there are safety complaints. The FTC usually only steps in when there are complaints about the truthfulness of the claims. The FTC also says that products intended for human ingestion are subject to the strict requirement that there be competent scientific evidence to support the claims made.

I trust that this answers your questions. Additional information is available on my web site, and on the FDA ( and FTC ( web sites.


"FDA's 2003 Consumer Health Information for Better Nutrition Initiative
provides for the use of qualified health claims when there is emerging
evidence for a relationship between a food, food component, or dietary
supplement and a reduced risk of a disease or health-related condition.
In this case, the evidence is not well enough established to meet the
significant scientific agreement standard required for FDA to issue an
authorizing regulation. Qualifying language is included as part of the
claim to indicate that the evidence supporting the claim is limited.
Both conventional foods and dietary supplements may use qualified health
claims. FDA uses its enforcement discretion for qualified health claims
after evaluating and ranking the quality and strength of the totality of
the scientific evidence. Also, FDA now has a process for the public to
view qualified health claim petitions, comment on these petitions, and
submit comments on these petitions through its web site."

·Qualified Health Claims Questions and Answers

·Summary of Qualified Health Claims Permitted
FDA Rule on Botanicals in Dietary Supplements Labeling
On August 28, 2003, FDA published a proposed and companion direct final
rule on ingredient labeling of dietary supplements that contain
botanicals. FDA is proposing to amend its regulation on declaring
botanical ingredients in dietary supplements to incorporate by reference
the 2000 editions of Herbs of Commerce and the International Code of
Botanical Nomenclature (Saint Louis Code).

· Direct Final Rule (

· Proposed Rule (

Sec. 101.36 Nutrition labeling of dietary supplements.

Here is what a Dietary Supplement label needs to contain, at a minimum, to meet FDA standards for grandfathering under DSHEA:

1. Main panel of the label must include:

A. Name of Product: ______ (followed by the ® or TM)
B. Total number of capsules/pills in bottle
C. The term "Dietary Supplement" OR "_____ Supplement"

"You must identify a dietary supplement by use of the term "dietary supplement" as part of the statement of identity, except that you may delete the word "dietary" and replace it with the name of the dietary ingredient(s) in the product (e.g., calcium supplement) or an appropriately descriptive term indicating the type of dietary ingredient(s) in your dietary supplement product (e.g., herbal supplement with vitamins).

If you use a Proprietary Blend (more info in the Regulations section below),

"You must identify proprietary blends by use of the term "Proprietary Blend" or an appropriately descriptive term or fanciful name. On the same line, you must list the total weight of all "other dietary ingredients" contained in the blend. Indented underneath the name of the blend, you must list the "other dietary ingredients" in the blend, either in a column or linear fashion, in descending order of predominance by weight. These ingredients should be followed by a symbol referring to the footnote "Daily Value Not Established." Dietary ingredients having RDIs or DRVs must be listed separately and the individual weights declared. 21 CFR 101.36(b)(2) and (c)"

2. Usually, the right side panel: the Supplement Facts Box (see details below)

3. Usually, the left side panel: Directions, Warnings and Disclaimers.

Dietary Supplements must include Directions since such food products are deemed safe if used as directed. Standard Warnings and Disclaimers are also needed, including the Statutory Disclaimer, "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."

Generally, you should include other standard disclaimers, such as, "Do not use if safety seal is broken. Keep out of reach of children. Store in a cool dry area at room temperature. Not for use by pregnant or lactating women." If it contains common allergens, it needs to include that warning as well.


Sec. 101.36 Nutrition labeling of dietary supplements.


SERVING SIZE -- The subheading 'Serving Size' shall be placed under the heading 'Supplement Facts' and aligned on the left side of the nutrition label. Serving size for dietary supplements shall be expressed using a term that is appropriate for the form of the supplement, such as 'tablets,' 'capsules,' 'packets,' or `'teaspoonfuls.'

SERVINGS PER CONTAINER -- The subheading 'Servings Per Container' shall be placed under the subheading 'Serving Size' and aligned on the left side of the nutrition label, except that this information need not be provided when it is stated in the net quantity of contents declaration.

AMOUNT PER SERVING / EACH CAPSULE CONTAINS -- (A) The names and the quantitative amounts by weight of each (b)(2)-dietary ingredient shall be presented under the heading 'Amount Per Serving.' When the quantitative amounts by weight are presented in a separate column, the heading may be centered over a column of quantitative amounts, described by paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section, if space permits. A heading consistent with the declaration of the serving size, such as 'Each Tablet Contains,' or 'Amount Per 2 Tablets' may be used in place of the heading 'Amount Per Serving.' Other appropriate terms, such as capsule, packet, or teaspoonful, also may be used in place of the term 'Serving.' The names of dietary ingredients that are declared under shall be presented in a column aligned on the left side of the nutrition label. Dietary ingredients shall be listed according to the nomenclature specified in Sec. 101.9 or in paragraph (b)(2)(i)(B)(2) of this section PLEASE NOTE 'PROPRIETARY BLEND' INFORMATION BELOW

The percent of the Daily Value of all dietary ingredients shall be listed - the quantitative amount by weight and the percent of Daily Value may be presented on a 'per unit' basis in addition to on a 'per serving' basis, as required in paragraph (b)(2)(ii) of this section. This information shall be presented in additional columns and clearly identified by appropriate headings.

These amounts shall be expressed using metric measures in appropriate units (i.e., 1,000 or more units shall be declared in the next higher set of units, e.g., 1,100 mg shall be declared as 1.1 g).

The constituents of a dietary ingredient may be listed indented under the dietary ingredient and followed by their quantitative amounts by Weight. Other dietary ingredients shall bear a symbol (e.g., an asterisk) in the column under the heading of '% Daily Value' that refers to the same symbol placed at the bottom of the nutrition label and followed by the statement 'Daily Value not established,' except that when the heading '% Daily Value' is not used, the symbol shall follow the quantitative amount by weight for each dietary ingredient listed.

PROPRIETARY BLEND: A proprietary blend of dietary ingredients shall be included in the list of dietary ingredients described in paragraph (b)(3)(i) of this section and identified by the term 'Proprietary Blend' or other appropriately descriptive term or fanciful name and may be highlighted by bold type. Except as specified in this paragraph, all other requirements for the listing of dietary ingredients in dietary supplements are applicable.

Nutrition information specified in this section shall be presented as follows:

(1) The title, 'Supplement Facts,' shall be set in a type size larger than all other print size in the nutrition label and, unless impractical, shall be set full width of the nutrition label. The title and all headings shall be bolded to distinguish them from other information.

(2) The nutrition information shall be enclosed in a box by using hairlines.

(3) All information within the nutrition label shall utilize:

(i) A single easy-to-read type style,

(ii) All black or one color type, printed on a white or other neutral contrasting background whenever practical,

(iii) Upper- and lowercase letters, except that all uppercase lettering may be utilized for packages that have a total surface area available to bear labeling of less than 12 square inches,

(iv) At least one point leading (i.e., space between lines of text), and

(v) Letters that do not touch.

(4) Except as provided for small and intermediate-sized packages under paragraph (i)(2) of this section, information other than the title, headings, and footnotes shall be in uniform type size no smaller than 8 point. Type size no smaller than 6 point may be used for columnheadings (e.g., 'Amount Per Serving' and '% Daily Value') and for footnotes (e.g., 'Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet').

(5) A hairline rule that is centered between the lines of text shall separate each dietary ingredient required in paragraph (b)(2) and (b)(3) of this section from the dietary ingredient above and beneath it, as shown in paragraph (e)(10) of this section.

(6) A heavy bar shall be placed:

(i) Beneath the subheading 'Servings Per Container' except that if 'Servings Per Container' is not required and, as a result, not declared, the bar shall be placed beneath the subheading 'Serving Size,'

(ii) Beneath the last dietary ingredient to be listed under paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section, if any, and

(iii) Beneath the last other dietary ingredient to be listed under paragraph (b)(3) of this section, if any.

(7) A light bar shall be placed beneath the headings 'Amount Per Serving' and '% Daily Value.'

(8) If the product contains two or more separately packaged dietary supplements that differ from each other (e.g., the product has a packet of supplements to be taken in the morning and a different packet to be taken in the afternoon), the quantitative amounts and percent of Daily Value may be presented as specified in this paragraph in individual nutrition labels or in one aggregate nutrition label as illustrated in paragraph (e)(10)(iii) of this section.

(9) In the interest of uniformity of presentation, FDA urges that the information be presented using the graphic specifications set forth in Appendix B to part 101, as applicable.

(10) The following sample labels are presented for the purpose of illustration: [deleted]

(11) If space is not adequate to list the required information as shown in the sample labels in paragraph (e)(10) of this section, the list may be split and continued to the right as long as the headings are repeated. The list to the right shall be set off by a line that distinguishes it and sets it apart from the dietary ingredients and percent of Daily Value information given to the left. The following sample label illustrates this display: [deleted]

(j) Dietary supplements shall be subject to the misbranding provisions of Sec. 101.9(k).



2009 Update
New FDA Label Guide

Further Updates (2007):
SOPs, cGMPs, etc:

Vitamin Lawyer FDA/FTC Page
Information and Links regarding
Federal Regulatory Concerns

2005 Label Guideline

NEW FDA "Science Based Initiative" - FDA Press Release - 07/10/03
"FDA's Task Force on Consumer Health Information for Better Nutrition unveiled a process for FDA to review... health claims. This process will rely on expertise from the Agency... coupled with enhanced consumer studies, to review health claims before they appear in food labeling. In addition to the report, FDA is announcing enhanced enforcement activity against dietary supplement manufacturers and others who make misleading claims about health benefits that are not based on science."
Task Force Report

FDA Issues Statement on Increased Enforcement - FDA Statement - 06/30/03
"[FDA] is committed to pursuing Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act violations. Enforcement activities include warning and untitled letters, injunctions, recalls, arrests, and convictions. Overall, these point to dramatically increased enforcement, particularly in areas related to the most serious threats to public health, such as arrests and convictions on criminal charges involving potentially dangerous activities and actions against manufacturers making misleading claims about product risks and benefits."

New Label Claims Page:

Brief Summary of All Claims that Can Be Made for Conventional Foods
and Dietary Supplements

Small business label exemption information,

See also: Vitamin Lawyer Free On Line Seminar and Traditional Uses

FTC Policy on "compare to" advertising:

Some Additional Links:

Structure & Function Claims Notice Procedure, claimnotice.html
Marketers MUST file this notice within 30 days of offering a new dietary supplement product.

Traditional Use Claims .htm

Some Label Content Considerations

FDA - Consolidated Institutional Review Board Guidance:

FDA - New Label Claims Page:

FDA - Brief Summary of All Claims that Can Be Made for Conventional Foods
and Dietary Supplements

FDA - OTC Labeling Overview (not Dietary Supplements)

FTC - Complying with the Telemarketing Sales Rule,

FTC - Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA).

FTC - Lost or Stolen Cards,

FTC - Fair Credit Reporting Act,

FTC - Consumer Guide to E-payments,

FTC on internet pharmacies,
& the Rennert case,

FTC Weight Loss Claims Guidance,

FDA Bioterrorism Preparedness Guide,

FDA on approved Health Claims,

FDA Device Advice,

Vitamin Lawyer News - regular updates -

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