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All About Child Nutrition Labels

September 6, 2022

A white food bag over a pink background with the text All About Child Nutrition Labels.

The Child Nutrition (CN) Label program began in 1984 as a way to identify some qualifying entrée items as being creditable in the CACFP. At that time manufactured foods were becoming more processed and complex in their formulations, and there was a demand to make them more easily identifiable as creditable for CACFP operators. However, food manufacturers wanted to keep proprietary formulations secret. The CN Label was developed as a solution to meet both needs.

Food companies must meet several requirements in order to participate in the CN Label program. Chief among these is the Quality Control process. The USDA guidelines establish the quality control requirements, and food plants write detailed quality control plans that describe how they will verify and document proper ingredients, formulation, portion size, cooked weight, etc.

What’s included on the CN Label? It contains a statement from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service that clearly identifies the contribution that product makes toward meal pattern requirements. It also includes a six-digit ID number assigned by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, as well as the month and year of approval. CN labels are valid for five years or until product formulation changes.

While CN Labels clearly identify how a food item credits within the CACFP, they do not necessarily indicate that a food is healthy. CACFP operators must still exercise judgment and discernment in developing nutritious, balanced menus, even while using CN-labeled foods.

Child Nutrition Label Resources

Looking for more detailed information about Child Nutrition Labels? Check out these resources for a deep dive in this USDA FNS program.

Webinar: CN Labels & Product Formulation Statements: Hands-On Practice

When should you request a CN Label or PFS? Is the crediting documentation for your product acceptable? Get clarity on common issues related to inaccurate or misleading product documentation. USDA will provide guidance on accepting documentation for meal pattern requirements and share sample Product Formulation Statements and CN Labels. Learn how to assess crediting documentation using sample CN Labels and Product Formulation Statements.

USDA FNS Authorized Labels and Manufacturers

Follow this link to find the updated CN Label verification report and the CN Label Manufacturers report.

Free Printable Resource: Reading Food Labels for CACFP Approved Menus

Check out our blog and free downloadable resource on using food labels and CN labels to build your CACFP creditable menu.

USDA FNS Webinar: CN Labeling Program--Update for  Industry

The webinar will provide an overview of the CN Labeling Program with crediting updates resulting from the Final Rule: Child Nutrition Program Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements and the Request for Information, in addition to crediting technical assistance specifically for the CN Labeling program.