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Hire a pro to ensure food labeling is done properly

March 17, 2009|Karen E. Klein

Dear Karen: My family and I have a bakery business and want to sell online. Whom do we contact for food label requirements?

Answer: Most packaged food labeling is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Mastering ingredients labeling, nutrition fact panels and allergen statements (if necessary) is complicated and usually requires professional help. You'll need to get nutrition analyses for your products and registerfurls/ffregist.html your manufacturing facility with the FDA.

"Then there are the rounding, formatting and font size rules for the nutrition panel, as well as regulations on which nutrition and health claims can be used," said Carol Harvey of Palate Works, a consulting firm based in Walnut Creek, Calif.

She sells a start-up kit at www.palateworks.com/kit.php that contains do-it-yourself information on labeling but recommends that you hire a knowledgeable consultant to review your labels before they're printed. "Errors, even from laboratory results, are not uncommon," Harvey said.

Weigh the loss of a tardy tenant

Dear Karen: My firm owns a small commercial property. Lately, one of our tenants has been late or missing on rent payments. What can I do?

Answer: Yours is a growing problem in today's economic climate, said John A. Logan, a real estate attorney at Laff Campbell Tucker & Gordon in Greenwood Village, Colo.

"It often comes down to a choice between accepting some money or evicting the tenant and potentially receiving no money at all," Logan said. If the property is in demand and you have a list of potential tenants, it might make sense to declare the lease in default and evict the nonpaying tenant, he said.

However, re-leasing is often costly -- you must pay leasing commissions and tenant improvement and incentive costs -- so working with a struggling tenant may make sense, Logan said.

Be careful, he warned: "In some cases, your temporary arrangement of partial or late payments can by law create a more permanent agreement to those terms, even when good times return. Make sure that temporary arrangements are documented as such, and can be returned to normal by notice from the landlord."

Be aware that small companies are often one bad deal from collapse, he said: "Get personal guarantees from these owners or . . . larger-than-normal security deposits."

Deterring order cancellations

Dear Karen: We've had some customers cancel large orders. Is there anything we can do?

Answer: Customers who cancel orders, withhold payment or declare bankruptcy create a ripple effect for their clients and suppliers. There's little to be done after the fact, but you can take some precautionary steps, said Erika Schenk, a contract lawyer at Bryan Cave in St. Louis.

Make sure you create firm commitments in the form of carefully drafted contracts with noncancellation clauses. Requiring an advance or down payment can also discourage customers from canceling, Schenk said.

"Making your agreement more favorable to your customer is also likely to deter cancellations. Offer favorable pricing and incentives for volume purchasing," she said.

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Got a question about running or starting a small enterprise? E-mail it to inbox.business @latimes.com or mail it to In Box, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

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