The Impact of Food Packaging Translation

There’s no doubt about how important accurate translation is in a wide variety of industries: from the legal profession to health care to education and many, many more. But perhaps nowhere is the general public more impacted by the importance of high quality translations than it is with food packaging. For people with food allergies, for example, one simple mistake on a food label can have devastating consequences. Even an error in cooking instructions can be hazardous if the food isn’t properly cooked and safe to consume. And in a general sense, all of us care about what we’re eating, so the ingredient labels on packaged foods need to be accurate and complete, as does the recommended “use by” or “best by” dates.

As it turns out, the public at large is not the only group of people concerned about the accuracy of food packaging translation: governments and regulatory agencies do as well. While the requirements differ to a certain degree from one country to the next, inside the US the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) requires a complete food label to contain the name of the product; the manufacturer’s name and address; a complete list of ingredients – from the most to the least contained in the product; the weight; the number of servings; the size of a single serving; the “best by” date; and a complete list of nutritional information, including the calories, vitamins and minerals, total fat, cholesterol, sodium, protein, etc.

If you are a food manufacturer or distributor who needs to have food packaging translated, you should keep in mind the importance of hiring only the most experienced, professional translator available. If you have any doubt about that, consider the possible consequences for selling food with inaccurate labeling. They are severe and can include any or all of the following:

• Regulatory fines

The FDA may impose fines on any company that attempts to sell a packaged food product with an inaccurate label. In fact, food labels are required to pass FDA regulations prior to the food product being sold to consumers. If the agency finds that the food doesn’t match the label – or if the label is inaccurately translated or incomplete – the FDA can impose steep fines on the manufacturer and prevent the distribution of the product.

• Stained reputation/loss of business

If your company is fined by the FDA, and/or if your product is prevented from being sold due to labeling issues, you can be certain that word of that will spread like wildfire amongst your competitors and consumers. The end result is a stain on your company’s reputation that can last for many years, and a significant loss of business. Both your brand and your company will lose credibility, and that can take years to rebuild – if, in fact, you’re ever able to do so.

• Legal action

In the worst-case scenario, a consumer becomes ill or dies as a result of a poorly translated food label. The threat of this is all too real when you consider the number of people that suffer from life-threatening food allergies. You and your company could land in court and end up paying a small fortune if a consumer becomes ill as a result of a mislabeled food product.

• Recall

Most of us hear about recalls all the time. But for the manufacturer and/or distributor involved in these actions, recalls can be costly – not only in terms of dollars and cents, but in terms of the company’s reputation as well.

Now for some good news. If you are in need of high quality translation services for food packaging, the answer is just a phone call or email away. The first step is to contact a reputable translation company. They can match your needs with a highly trained, qualified translator with experience in translating food packaging. Whatever you do, never rely on machine translation for this kind of important task. Instead, secure the services of a top notch linguist. Your product, your company and – most importantly of all – the consumers will be glad you did!