Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Guidance for Processed Product Documentation

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: Child Nutrition Program Sponsors

Attention: Program and Food Services Directors

Number: FDP-02-2015 and CNP-07-2015

Date: June 2015

Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture Memorandum TA 07–2010 (v.3): Guidance for Accepting Processed Product Documentation for Meal Pattern Requirements

Supersedes: California Department of Education Management Bulletin USDA-CNP-05-2013

Subject: Guidance for Accepting Processed Product Documentation for Meal Pattern Requirements

This Management Bulletin (MB) provides updated clarification to child nutrition program (CNP) sponsors about the requirements for documenting processed end [food] products to ensure that they meet meal pattern requirements. This MB also outlines what documentation must be on file and available during a California Department of Education (CDE) Administrative Review (AR) or any other outside review/audit.

Crediting Methods
Sponsors have the option to choose the crediting method that best fits the specific needs of their menu planner; however, food manufacturers are required to communicate to sponsors how their products contribute to the meal pattern. The challenge when using processed end products is obtaining the required documentation to demonstrate that meals served meet all requirements. Food manufacturers can use either of the following methods to document the contribution to the meal pattern for processed end products:
  1. Child Nutrition (CN) label
  2. Product formulation statement (PFS)
Child Nutrition Labels

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) CN Label Program is a voluntary federal program that ensures a processed end product provides the stated contribution toward the meal pattern.

Specifically, a CN label provides the:
  • CN logo
  • Contribution toward meal pattern requirements
  • Product identification number assigned by the USDA
  • Month and year of approval

CN labels are only available for main dish/entrée processed end products that contribute at least 0.5 ounce equivalents to the meat/meat alternate component of the meal pattern (e.g., cheese and bean burritos, cheese or meat pizzas, breaded fish). To better serve sponsors, CN labels now reflect whole grain-rich and vegetable subgroup contributions. A CN label is considered valid until the product formulation changes or five years has lapsed, whichever comes first.

In order for a product to carry a CN label, the end product must first be evaluated by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to determine its contribution toward the meal pattern and then be produced under federal inspection by the USDA or the U.S. Department of Commerce. The CN Label Program provides a USDA-approved method to document processed end products’ contribution to the meal pattern. The CDE will request a valid CN label and crediting statement or a PFS during the AR, as required by the USDA. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) publishes a list of manufacturers that have met all the requirements of the CN Labeling Program and a list of approved CN labeled end products with corresponding CN label numbers. The AMS updates the lists monthly. The lists do not reflect newly approved manufacturers, labels, or any processed end products approved before 2005. To view the lists, please visit the USDA CN Labeling Web page at

Note: These lists are for informational purposes only, and are not considered acceptable proof of CN labeling.

Product Formulation Statements

Sponsors should obtain a complete and signed PFS in the event that a processed end product does not possess a CN label. A PFS demonstrates how the processed end product contributes toward meal pattern requirements and should include the contribution to all components.

The USDA developed PFS samples and templates that can be used as a guide for sponsors. These resources, as well as specific policies for Alternative Protein Products including a “reviewer’s checklist,” can be found on the USDA CN Labeling Food Manufacturers/Industry Web page, under the subheading Manufacturer’s Product Formulation Statement, at

The USDA templates serve as guidance only and are not required. An acceptable PFS must be completed on the manufacturer’s letterhead and include all of the following:
  • Product name, code number, and serving size
  • Type and weight of the creditable ingredient
  • Date signed
  • Printed name, signature, and title of the company representative certifying that the information on the PFS is true and correct (electronic and/or font signatures are acceptable)
  • Documentation of the manufacturer calculation

A PFS must prove how the claimed credit was obtained in the finished product. It is never acceptable for a manufacturer to simply state that the product provides a certain amount of credit. All manufacturers must use the yields found in the USDA Food Buying Guide (FBG) for Child Nutrition Programs to calculate meal pattern contributions. If a PFS for a specific end product claims to provide a higher credit than that listed in the FBG, the PFS must demonstrate how the product provides that credit according to FNS regulations, guidance, or policy. Manufacturers must also verify that the credit a product contributes to meal pattern requirements is not greater than the serving size of the product and assure that the creditable components are visible in the finished product. Unlike a CN label, a PFS must be verified by the sponsor.

To view the FBG, please visit the USDA FBG for Child Nutrition Programs Web page at

Note: The CDE recommends including the Nutrition Facts panel on the PFS to ensure program compliance.

Product Formulation Statement Validation

Sponsors are ultimately responsible for ensuring that a menu fulfills all meal pattern requirements; therefore, all PFSs must be validated. To support sponsors and manufacturers and expedite the AR process, Nutrition Services Division (NSD) staff are available to validate calculations for contribution to the meal pattern. Manufacturers interested in having the NSD validate their PFS calculations can send electronic copies of their PFS by e-mail to This process does not provide an official approval for an end product.

The NSD recently upgraded the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) Food Distribution Module to house validated PFSs. This allows sponsors to download and print a validated PFS for their files and use during ARs. The validated PFS is listed by manufacturer and includes the product name and code number in the description.

To access a validated PFS:

  • Log onto the CNIPS Web site at
  • Select Food Distribution Program
  • Select Agencies
  • Select Download Forms
Record Retention

Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, sections 210.23(c), 220.8(a)(3), 225.8(a), 226.10(d), and 250.16(b), require all sponsors to retain meal pattern contribution documentation for three years from the close of the fiscal year to which they pertain.

Sponsors using a CN label to document an end product’s contribution must retain either the original CN label or a photocopy of the original CN label from the box if the CN label cannot be easily removed. A photograph of the CN label while it is attached to the product carton is also acceptable documentation. If the original CN label from the product carton, or the valid photograph or photocopy of the original CN label is not available, sponsors may provide the bill of lading (invoice) containing the product name and a paper or electronic copy of the watermarked CN label that displays the product name and CN number provided by the vendor. For more information pertaining to watermarked CN labels, please refer to MB FDP-03-2015 and CNP-08-2015: Administrative Review Process Regarding the CN Label, Watermarked CN Label, and Manufacturer’s PFS on the CDE Food Distribution MBs Web page at

Sponsors using a PFS to document an end product’s contribution must retain a copy of the PFS with the validated calculations.

Resource: Tip Sheet

The USDA issued a tip sheet for CNP operators to use when accepting processed product documentation such as CN labels and PFSs. The CDE strongly encourages sponsors to use this information when accepting processed products. The Tip Sheet for Accepting Processed Product Documentation is located on the USDA Food Manufacturers/Industry page at


If you have any questions regarding this MB, please contact Sherry Tam, Child Nutrition Consultant, by phone at 916-324-9875 or by e-mail at

Questions:   Food Distribution Program | 916-324-7132
Last Reviewed: Thursday, June 06, 2024
Related Content
Recently Posted in Nutrition