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What is the Child Nutrition Labeling Program?
The Child Nutrition (CN) Labeling Program is a voluntary Federal labeling program for the Child Nutrition Programs.
Does the CN Labeling Program apply to food-based menu planning?
Yes, the CN Labeling Program applies to food-based menu planning approaches for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program. The CN label on a product communicates how the product contributes to USDA meal pattern requirements.
Who runs the program?
Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the USDA manages much of the CN Labeling Program in collaboration with three other Federal agencies: USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS):
How does the program work?
What products are eligible for CN labels?
Main dish products which contribute to the Meats/Meat Alternates component of the meal pattern requirements are eligible for a CN label. Examples of these products include beef patties, cheese or meat pizzas, meat or cheese and bean burritos, egg rolls, and breaded fish portions.
What must eligible products have to carry a CN label?
Are manufacturers required to CN label products?
There is no Federal requirement for products to have a CN label. The decision to procure CN labeled products is made at the local level. If CN labeled products are desired, program operators must clearly state this in their purchasing specifications.
What are the advantages of using CN labeled products?
Do CN labeled products cost more?
CN labeled products may cost more. Special labeling requirements, inspection costs, and extra staff costs to monitor quality control may be contributing factors in CN labeled products costing more than similar non-CN labeled products. Keep in mind that cost comparison between two meat products should be based on the cost per ounce or pound of “contribution” to the meal pattern requirements, not on the product cost per ounce or pound.
How do I identify a CN labeled product?
A CN labeled product will always contain the following:
Note: The X’s in the sample CN Logo are only used to demonstrate the placement of the CN identification number and the final date. If you receive a CN labeled product containing all X’s (all zeroes, or non-number symbols) for the CN identification number, the label is not valid. If a CN label is not valid, FNS cannot provide a warranty for its use toward meal pattern requirements. Refer to the “Helpful Resources” section for more information on the CN Labeling Verification Reporting System to assist you in identifying valid CN labels.
Are CN labeled products more nutritious than similar non-CN labeled products?
No. A CN label does not indicate that the CN product is healthier or more nutritious than a similar non-CN labeled product. The CN crediting statement declares the quantities of the creditable food item(s) in a processed food. The quantity of creditable food is used to meet the meal pattern requirements.
Are CN labeled products of a higher quality than non-CN labeled products?
CN Labeling Website
This website includes general background of the CN Labeling Program and provides helpful information for food manufacturers and FNS Meal Programs. https://www.fns.usda.gov/cnlabeling/child-nutrition-cn-labeling-program
The CN Label Verification Reporting System
The system was developed to assist State agency reviewers, CN program operators, and the food industry in verifying the status of a CN label and the validity of a CN label copied with a watermark.
The system produces two comprehensive monthly reports available on the CN Labeling website at https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/labeling/usdausdc-authorized-labels-and-manufacturers:
For more information:
For additional information about the CN Labeling Program, contact AMS:
CN Labeling Program Operations Office
USDA, AMS, FV, SCI Division - Stop 0247, Room 0710-S
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20250
The yield data for foods in sections 1 – 5 of the Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs are for foods that are commonly purchased at the program level. Food Items for Further Processing contains food items intended to be used by industry for further processing. The yield information may also be used in the CN Labeling Program. It is important that Child Nutrition Program operators are aware of the yields for food items that industry uses for determining the meal pattern contribution for the Federal meal pattern requirements. The yield data provides program operators the information needed to verify that the processed food items they purchase are credited in a manner consistent with program requirements.
For more information please see Food Items for Further Processing yield table.