Food Safety & Labeling
Food Packaging & Labeling
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) administers state laws related to food packaging and labeling, including:
- Dairy Product Advertising and Labeling (Wisconsin Administrative Code chapter ATCP 83).
- Deceptive Food Advertising (Wisconsin Statutes section 100.183).
- Fair Packaging and Labeling (Wisconsin Administrative Code chapter ATCP 90).
- False Weight or Measure (Wisconsin Statutes section 98.26)
- Food Adulteration and Misbranding (Wisconsin Statutes sections 97.02, 97.03 and 97.10).
- Fraudulent Representations (Wisconsin Statutes section 100.18).
- Meat Labeling (Wisconsin Administrative Code chapter ATCP 55).
- Price Scanners (Wisconsin Statutes section 98.08).
- Unfair Business Practices (Wisconsin Statutes section 100.20).
DATCP may suspend a dairy, food or meat license for advertising or labeling violations. DATCP may also seek court action against a violator. Penalties vary, depending on applicable laws. Some laws also provide a private remedy for a consumer or competitor who suffers a monetary loss because of a violation.
Deceptive Advertising and Labeling
Wisconsin law broadly prohibits deceptive advertising and labeling of food. See Wisconsin Statutes sections 97.10, 100.18, 100.182 and 100.20. A food label may not make affirmative claims unless those claims are true and can be substantiated at the time the claim is made. Federal law spells out specific standards for some claims, such as organic and fat-free claims. Wisconsin law will generally follow those federal standards.
False Weight or Measure
Wisconsin law prohibits false weights or measures. For example, a food package label may not misrepresent the net weight of package contents. See Wisconsin Statutes section 98.26 and Wisconsin Administrative Code section ATCP 90.09.
- A seller may not use deceptive packaging to misrepresent the nature, quality or amount of food contained in a package. See Wisconsin Statutes section 97.03(1)(c) and 97.10.
- Food packages must be sanitary, and may not include poisonous or deleterious substances that may make the food contents injurious to health. See Wisconsin Statutes sections 97.02(7) and (8) and 97.10.
- Packaged food must be labeled to show product identity, manufacturer’s identity and net quantity. See Wisconsin Statutes sections 97.03 and 97.10, and Wisconsin Administrative Code chapter ATCP 90.
- A food must be sold under its common or usual name. A food produced from 2 or more ingredients must be labeled to disclose those ingredients (by their common or usual names). If the food is one for which there is a legal standard of identity, and the food complies with that standard, a full listing of ingredients may not be necessary (some ingredient disclosures may be required). See Wisconsin Statutes section 97.03(1)(f) to (h) and 97.10.
- Packaged processed food must have nutrition labeling, including fat disclosures. See Wisconsin Administrative Code section ATCP 90.10.
- Artificial colors, artificial flavors and chemical preservatives must be disclosed. See Wisconsin Statutes section 97.03(1)(k).
- Meat must be labeled to show state or federal inspection. See Wisconsin Administrative Code chapter ATCP 55.
- Some commodities must be sold by weight, measure or count, as prescribed by law. This helps prevent confusion and facilitate value comparisons.
- Special labeling requirements apply to some foods.
Federal law requires nutrition labeling of processed packaged food. Wisconsin rules incorporate federal requirements by reference (see Wisconsin Administrative Code section ATCP 90.10). These include requirements related to:
- Nutrition labeling (including fat content)
- Label format
- Serving size disclosures
- Nutrient lists
- Nutritional claims
- Labeling substitute foods (such as low-fat or imitation foods)
- Health and dietary claims
- Ingredient labeling
- Food standards of identity
- Standard terminology
Wisconsin Statutes section 98.08 regulates price scanners, including price scanners used at check-out lines in grocery stores. If a scanner charges more than the price stated on the food label or display shelf, the seller must refund the difference to the buyer. Sellers must post signs to inform buyers of this refund obligation. Violators may be prosecuted under Wisconsin Statutes section 98.26.
Sale By Weight, Measure or Count
Under Wisconsin law:
- Liquid commodities must normally be sold by liquid measure. But a liquid may be sold by weight if that method is meaningful and generally used.
- Non-liquid commodities must normally be sold by weight. But a non-liquid may be sold by count or measure if that method is meaningful and generally used.
- Different methods of sale are prescribed (or allowed) for some commodities.
See Wisconsin Statutes section 98.06 and Wisconsin Administrative Code chapter ATCP 91. Violators may be prosecuted under Wisconsin Statutes section 98.26.