Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. How does one cite a food label? My friend is writing her dissertation on the local-food movement and branding (among other things), and she’s curious about how to properly cite some labels she’s using in her research.

A. There is no particular “proper” way to cite a food label in the sense that a style manual will include an example you can follow. Even so, it’s understandable that your friend wants something more scholarly than “I saw this Twinkie label . . .” Following general guidelines for citing, your friend should list whatever will help a reader locate the label to check it personally, such as the brand, the type of food, the type of packaging, the date on the label, or the date observed. There is no point in trying to force the information into a standard note or bibliography citation format. Photos of the labels might be more helpful than pseudocitations.