The FPLA covers labeling requirements for consumer products sold in the United States. It requires that packaging content is correctly declared, which includes weight, quantity, and measurements.
That being said, its application can differ depending on the product inside the packaging. In this guide, we explain what US importers and manufacturers must know about the FPLA.
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What is FPLA?
The FPLA establishes requirements for labeling packages of consumer commodities. The labels should allow consumers to obtain correct information regarding the package’s content, such as the product’s weight or measure.
Additionally, the FPLA prevents the deceptive and unfair labeling of covered products and aids consumers in comparing the value of such commodities.
The FPLA is administered by both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It does not cover products sold according to the “quantity of their contents and appliances”. Here are some examples:
- Electronic equipment
- Industrial equipment
FTC covered products
The FTC administers the FPLA with respect to household consumer commodities, including products that are:
- Used for personal care
- Used for performing household services
- Consumed during use
Here are some examples of covered products:
- Soap bars
- Facial tissues
- Liquid shoe polish
- Picnic ware
FDA covered products
The FDA administers the FPLA with respect to products that are covered by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), including:
You can find more information on the US Code’s website.
The FPLA doesn’t apply to:
a. Meat products or poultry
b. Tobacco products
c. Commodities subjected to labeling requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
d. Drugs subject to section 503(b)(1) or 506 of the FDCA
e. Beverage subjected to labeling requirements under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act
f. Products that fall under the scope of the Federal Seed Act
The FPLA also doesn’t apply to packaged commodities that have been exempted through proceedings or petitions. For example, the relevant authority may exempt a consumer product from the FPLA if full compliance is either impracticable or unnecessary, due to that product’s form, nature, or quantity.
The FPLA requires the packaging of commodities to bear labels with the following information:
a. Statement of the product’s identity
b. Names and business addresses of the manufacturer, packer, and distributor
c. Declaration of net quantity, servings, or uses of contents
Statement of identity
The statement of identity should conform to requirements such as the following:
a. Bears the product’s generic name, or a descriptive term specifying its statement of function
b. Appear on the product’s principal display panel
c. Be visible and easily understood by the consumer
d. The position should be parallel to how the product is designed to be displayed
The specification of identity should not contain deceptive, false, or misleading information. It should also not mention components or ingredients that are not present in the product in significant or effective amounts.
Name and place of business of manufacturer, packer, or distributor
The product’s label should state the name and address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor. If the product was not manufactured by the company whose name is on the label, then the product should bear a qualifying phrase such as the following:
- “Manufactured for ______”
- “Distributed by ______”
Companies can provide their actual name, preceded or followed by the name of their particular division, to fulfill declaration requirements.
The business address should include the following information:
- Street address (omit if widely published in a public resource)
- Zip code
Net quantity of contents declaration
The declaration of the net quantity of contents includes requirements regarding the method of expression and location.
Method of expression
The net quantity of contents information should be accurate and facilitate comparison of values such as characterization of package size (e.g., “12 bags, 15 in. x 20 in. (38 cm x 50.8 cm)”).
It should also be expressed in terms such as the following:
- Numerical count
If the product is liquid, the net quantity should be declared in terms of fluid measure.
The net quantity should be in terms of weight or mass if the product is:
- A mix of solid and liquid
The principal display panel should bear a separate label that accurately states the net quantity of contents. The declaration of net quantity should be distinct from other printed label information appearing above, below, or next to the declaration.
It should also be placed on the principal display panel within the bottom 30% of the label panel. Products with principal display panels 5 square inches or less are exempt from this requirement.
Units of measurement
The FPLA has numerous requirements regarding the correct usage of units of measurement. We provide a few of those requirements below, along with some corresponding examples of how units of measurement should be stated.
Weight or mass
The weight or mass of a product should be stated in terms of both avoirdupois pounds or ounces and SI metric kilograms, grams, or milligrams.
For example, the weight or mass can be presented as:
- “Net Wt 10 oz (283.5 g)”; or
- “5.2 oz (147.4 g)”; or
- “Net mass 420 g (14.8 oz)”
The declaration of net quantity for fluid products should be expressed in terms of US gallon, quart, pint, or fluid ounce, as well as SI metric liters and milliliters. However, the requirements vary slightly depending on whether the measurement is:
a. Less than 1 pint (e.g., “Net Contents 4 fl. oz. (118 mL)”)
b. At least 1 pint but less than 1 gallon (e.g., “2 qt. (1.89 L)”)
c. 1 gallon or more (e.g., “Contents 5 gal. (18.92 L)”)
Length and width
Bidimensional products are measured in terms of their length and width. The requirements regarding the net quantity of such products may vary slightly.
If bidimensional products have a width exceeding 4 inches and have:
a. An area of less than 1 square foot, then the net quantity should be expressed in terms of length and width, in inches
b. An area of 1 square foot or more but less than 4 square feet, then the declaration of net quantity should state the area in square inches. The declaration should state the length and width in yards or feet
c. An area of 4 square feet or more, then the declaration of net quantity must express the area in square feet, the length and width in yards or feet, and any remainder in inches
However, if bidimensional products have a width that is 4 inches or less, then the quantity should be stated in terms of length and width in linear measure.
Products in separate usable units comprising one or more components or ply, should be labeled with the net quantity stated in terms of:
- The total number of usable units
- The number of ply
- Linear measurements in inches
For instance, “50 2-ply facial tissues, 8 inches x 10 inches”.
Packages containing multiple individual packages
Multiunit, variety, and combination packages are similar in that they contain multiple individually-packaged products.
The difference lies in the fact that multiunit packages contain individually-packaged identical products, while variety and combination packages contain non-identical products.
Multiunit packages contain two or more identical products that are individually packaged or labeled in the same quantity. The declaration of net quantity should express the contents of multiunit packages in terms of the following:
a. The number of separate units with labels or packaging (e.g. 20 packs of tissues)
b. The number of each individual product that is packaged or labeled (e.g. 15 two-ply tissues per pack, 8 in. x 6 in. (20.3 x 15.2 cm) each)
c. The total number of units in the multiunit package (e.g. Total: 300 tissues per multiunit package)
Variety packages contain two or more similar but not identical products that are individually packaged. This includes packages or units of products sharing the same general characteristics but having different:
a. Weight or mass (e.g. 4 soaps of different weight)
b. Measure (e.g. 5 sponges of different sizes)
c. Volume (e.g. 4 cans of liquid shoe polish with different volumes)
d. Appearance (e.g. “Picnic Ware: 20 spoons; 20 forks; 20 knives. Total: 60 pieces)
The declaration of net quantity should state the contents of variety packages in terms of:
a. The number of units for each similar product, followed by their weight or mass, volume, or measure
b. The total quantity of the variety packages, by weight or mass, volume, measure, and count
Combination packages contain two or more different units of products that are individually packaged. For instance, a cleaning pack of 3 sponges and 3 bars of soap.
The declaration of the net quantity of combination packages should be stated in terms of:
- Weight or mass
- A combination of the above
We address below frequently-asked questions about the FPLA.
What is the difference between FPLA and UPLR?
We explain the main differences between the FPLA and the Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulation (UPLR) in the table below.
|Product scope||1.FDA covered products (Any food, drug, device, or cosmetic)
2. FTC covered products (other covered “cosumer commodities”)
|Covers both consumer and non-consumer products|
|Legal status||Federal Act||Uniform Regulation drafted by the NIST|
|Administered by||Enforced by the FDA and the FTC||Adopted by US States which lead to the creation of State-level regulations|
|System(s) of measure||The legislation uses the following systems of measure:
1. US Customary units
2. SI Metric System
Note: Both are needed unless exemptions apply
|The legislation uses the following systems of measure:
1. US Customary units
2. SI Metric System
Note: Includes a Metric only option (unless exemptions apply)
Is the FPLA mandatory in the United States?
The FPLA is mandatory in the United States with respect to:
a. The labeling of household consumer commodities, which is administered by the FTC
b. The labeling of products that fall under the scope of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act