Packaging Materials Regulations in the United States: An Overview

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Are you importing or manufacturing packaging materials in the United States? If so, you need to be aware of heavy metals restrictions, safety standards, labeling rules, and other compliance requirements.

In this guide, we take a look at Fair Packaging Labeling Act (FPLA), Fair Packaging Labeling Act (FPLA), the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA), and the Model Toxics in Packaging Legislation.

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Fair Packaging Labeling Act (FPLA)

The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) is implemented by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It establishes labeling requirements for consumer commodities to facilitate value comparisons among similar products. Additionally, it aims to prevent deceptive packaging and labeling claims of household goods.

You can learn more about the FPLA on this page.

Product scope

The FPLA defines packaging as any container or wrapping used to deliver or display consumer commodities.

It applies to consumer commodities, which are defined as any article that is distributed and sold for:

  • Consumption by individuals
  • Personal care (e.g. soap)
  • Used within the household for the performance of services (e.g. sponge)

FPLA Exemptions

Here are some examples of commodities that are outside the scope of the FPLA:

  • Food
  • Drugs
  • Cosmetic
  • Tobacco

packaging-materials-regulations-us

Labeling requirements

The FPLA sets a series of standards for product labeling contents in terms of wording, typesetting, design, and units. Here are some of the requirements:

1. Identity of the commodity

2. Name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor

3. The net quantity of contents, using the units of both the customary inch/pound system of measure

Also, the labels should be printed in a font and typeface that are to be in a fixed proportion to the main viewing window of the package, and consistent across all parcels of roughly equivalent size.

Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA)

The Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA) was enacted to protect children under the age of five from accidents when they attempt to open containers of hazardous products and eat or drink their contents.

The PPPA requires that product packaging must be designed in a way that is significantly difficult for children aged under five years old to unpack.

Product scope

Household products that contain an excessive amount of chemicals and pollutants (such as medicines and cosmetic products) might fall under the regulation of PPPA. Here are some examples:

  • Furniture polish
  • Lighter fluid
  • Lamp oil
  • Aspirin
  • Controlled drugs
  • Ibuprofen

Requirements

The PPPA requires covered products’ packaging to be constructed in a way that makes it significantly difficult for children under 5 years old to unpack. Meanwhile, it must be easy for adults to unpack it.

However, in order to help the elderly and people with disabilities to open some type of packaging without too much difficulty, the act allows for products to be packed in “non-complying sizes” bearing the following warning statement:


This product is not recommended for use in households with children


You can learn more about the act and the above-mentioned exception on this page.

US State Packaging Regulations

Other than the federal regulations on the packaging and labeling requirements, individual states also have enacted local regulations on this matter. In this section, you find a non-comprehensive overview of some of these regulations.

Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulation (UPLR)

The Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulation (UPLR) serve as a guide for packaging labeling requirements in the US, and most of its requirements were also adapted by the FPLA, although UPLR covers a wider range of products.

So far, the UPLR has been adopted into law in 45 of the 50 US states (except for Louisiana, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Wyoming, and North Dakota).

The UPLR requires importers and manufacturers to provide accurate and adequate information about the products so that purchasers can make price and quantity comparisons.

Scope of the regulation

The UPLR applies to most kinds of packages, except for the following:

a. Inner wrappings that are not sold to the customer separately from the products

b. Shipping containers or outer wrappings used solely for the transportation of bulk commodities, or packages delivery

c. Containers used for retail tray pack displays when the container itself is not intended to be sold (e.g. the tray that is used to display individual envelopes of seasonings)

d. Open carriers and transparent wrappers or carriers for containers when the wrappers or carriers do not bear any written, printed, or graphic matter obscuring the label information required by this regulation

e. Packages intended for export to foreign countries

Requirements

The UPLR requires that consumer packaging labels should bear the following contents:

  • Identity of the commodity
  • Name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor
  • Net quantity of contents or numerical count in metric units

Bag Suffocation Warning

Some states in the US have established regulations for the size, thickness, and labeling requirements for plastic bags, to protect the safety of children and help prevent child suffocation.

Examples

The following list shows the requirements for the specifications of plastic bags in several states in the US:

States/ municipalities The label is required if
California Size of opening>25in2 or capacity>125in3
Chicago Bags intended for household use, other than the ones used for food products weighing ≤ 5lb
Massachusetts Size of opening in diameter ≥ 7in. and Length + Width ≥ 25in
New York Size of opening in diameter ≥ 7in. and Length + Width ≥ 25in
Rhode Island Size of opening in diameter > 5in
Virginia Labeling is required for DRY CLEANING BAGS if Length totals ≥ 25in

Amazon requirements

Amazon has specific requirements for poly-bagged units, aiming at the prevention of suffocation. For example, if the opening of a poly bag is 5 inches or larger, the poly bag must bear a suffocation warning. This warning should either be printed on the poly bag or attached to it as a label.

Amazon provides an example of a suffocation warning:


To avoid danger of suffocation, keep this bag away from babies and children. Do not use this bag in cribs, beds, carriages, or playpens. This bag is not a toy.


Products packed in polybags might fall into three categories:

  • Loose products
  • Boxed units
  • Poly-bagged units

For example, Amazon considers footwear to be a loose product, regardless of what material the footwear is made of. Footwear should be packaged – without exposing any shoe material – in poly bags with a suffocation warning (or a shoe box).

Products that come in boxed units are required to pass a 3-foot drop test that consists of one drop per side for a six-sided box, and one drop on a corner. It is mandatory to place the product in a poly bag with a suffocation warning if the product does not pass the drop test.

For more information on Amazon packaging requirements, click here.

Model Toxics in Packaging Legislation

The Model Toxics in Packaging Legislation, developed in 1989, was intended to be adopted by individual states across the US. The Legislation was written with the goal of reducing the amount of heavy metals in packaging and packaging components distributed across the US.

As of 2021, 19 states in the US have adopted the Legislation. Out of those 19 states, 10 of them are Member States of the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse (TPCH). We list those ten states below:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington

The other 9 states are non-members but have adopted the Legislation. We list those 9 states below:

  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Product scope

The Model Toxics in Packaging Legislation restricts the use of certain intentionally introduced heavy metals and other substances in packaging and packaging components meant for sale. “Package” includes unsealed receptacles such as the following:

  • Bags
  • Carrying cases
  • Cups
  • Crates
  • Rigid foil and other trays
  • Wrappers and wrapping films
  • Tubs

“Packaging component” refers to any single assembled part of a package. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Any interior or exterior blocking
  • Bracing
  • Closures
  • Coatings
  • Cushionings
  • Exterior strapping
  • Inks and labels
  • Weatherproofing

Substance restrictions

According to the legislation, the total concentration level of the incidental presence of restricted substances combined should not exceed 100 parts per million (ppm) by weight.

We list the restricted substances below:

  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Cadmium
  • Hexavalent chromium
  • Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
  • Ortho-phthalates

Certificate of Compliance

The TPCH requires importers and manufacturers of packaging and packaging components to provide customers with a certificate of compliance, or an exemption certificate when they request one. This requirement only applies to companies that place their products in packages.

To understand what you need to include on your certificates of compliance, click on the links below:

California’s Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Law

To reduce the amount of plastic wastage and increase the recycling rate of used plastic matters, the state of California passed the Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Law (RPPC).

This law requires products manufactured, imported to, and sold in California that use rigid plastic packaging containers, to be compliant with one of the following requirements:

a. The container must be made from a minimum of 25% recycled materials

b. The container must be reusable

c. The container must be source-reduced (container weight reduced by 10%)

d. The container must contain floral preservatives and later be used in the floral business

e. The container must have a 45% recycling rate at the minimum

Some products are exempt from RPPC law, such as:

  • Food, drugs, cosmetics, baby formula, and medical devices
  • Hazardous materials subject to US Department of Transportation regulations

Other states regulations

Outside of California, there are other states in the US that also have their respective packaging requirements. Here we list some examples:

a. New York State’s Hazardous Packaging Law

b. Washington State Legislature Chapter 70A.222 Packages Containing Metals And Toxic Chemicals

c. Minnesota Statutes 115A.965 Prohibitions On Selected Toxics In Packaging

d. Rhode Island Chapter 23-18.13 Toxic Packaging Reduction Act

e. New Hampshire Chapter 149-M Solid Waste Management Toxics Reduction

f. Maryland Subtitle 19 Toxics in Packaging

g. Iowa Chapter 455D.19 Packaging – Heavy Metal Content

h. Connecticut’s Toxics in Packaging Program

Other Regulations

Many consumer product regulations have a direct impact on the labeling and safety of product packaging. We cover some of these below.

Country of Origin

19 CFR 134 requires that products imported to the US from foreign countries must bear a Country of Origin mark. This indicates the product’s source of origin, in a conspicuous and indelible way, to the consumers in the US.

The country of origin should reflect the manufacturing country of the product and not of the packaging (in case it’s not the same as the product manufacturing country).

Label file

You must create a country of origin file and submit it to your manufacturer before starting mass production. We recommend that you provide a country of origin label file in .ai or .eps formats.

CPSIA: Children’s Products

Most children’s products sold in the United States must carry a CPSIA tracking label, which is often placed on both the product and its packaging.

California Proposition 65

California Proposition 65 employs restrictions on over 900 chemicals and heavy metals in consumer products sold in California, including packaging material.

Examples of restricted substances

  • Lead
  • Cadmium
  • Mercury
  • Phthalates

California Proposition 65 Lab testing

Importers should have the product packaging materials lab-tested for California Prop 65 compliance.

Warning Labeling

In some cases, instead of subjecting your product to California Proposition 65 third-party, it is permissible to attach a warning label to the product or its packaging.

Packaging lab testing

When importers and manufacturers want to sell a product in the market, it is often necessary for them to send their products to be tested at reputable test laboratories. They do this to make sure that their product complies with applicable regulations.

Some products are sold in packages. As such, importers and manufacturers should also understand that the packaging their products come in may be subject to lab testing. Below we list some companies that offer laboratory testing services for packaging in the US.

Smithers

Founded in 1925, Smithers has almost 100 years of expertise in providing the following services:

  • Testing
  • Consulting
  • Information
  • Compliance

The company provides package testing services for businesses needing to demonstrate that their packaging is safe, complies with international standards, and is of quality. Their package testing capabilities cover:

a. Materials testing – Smithers utilizes standard and non-standard services to test materials ranging from paper and board to plastic.

b. Primary pack testing – Packaging experts offer primary packaging performance analysis services.

c. Distribution and packaging transit testing – Smithers troubleshoots packaging issues and offers extensive laboratory package testing.

BillerudKorsnäs

BillerudKorsnäs is a sustainable packaging company that has packaging experts who provide businesses with packaging audits that involves material testing and performance analysis.

The company can help businesses ensure that their products’ packaging results in benefits such as:

  • Reduced product damage and loss
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Minimum use of packaging

BillerudKorsnäs also provides corrugated testing capabilities in three major locations to ISO and TAPPI standards. The company’s testing labs are in the following locations:

a. Portland, Oregon. The company tests products against standards such as ISO 3037 and TAPPI 811.

b. Gruvön, Sweden. BillerudKorsnäs uses standards such as ISO 3035 and TAPPI 825 to test products.

c. Shenzhen, China. Standards include ISO 9895 and TAPPI 826.

QIMA

QIMA provides laboratory testing services for businesses wanting to ensure that their printing and packaging materials meet legal requirements. The company’s testing services cover packaging products and materials such as:

  • Shrink film, stretch-wrap film packaging
  • Packaging for electronics and appliances
  • Personal care product packaging
  • Food contact packaging

QIMA’s testing services cover numerous tests, including but not limited to:

  • Label review
  • UV/sunlight exposure
  • Abrasion resistance
  • Drop and impact testing
  • Altitude testing
  • Tear and perforation testing
  • Vehicle transportation simulation
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  • 5 Responses to “Packaging Materials Regulations in the United States: An Overview

    1. GEORGE TRIPPTREE at 10:26 pm

      Inflatable pools- we will be importing an assortment of inflatable pools from China this year, using their packaging. Does the pool size need to be in Inches, or is Metric only an issue?

      Also, what is the correct ASTM standard for these pools?

      Thanks for your help.

    2. brake cleaner at 1:03 am

      Your article is quite helpful! I have so many questions, and you have answered many. Thank you! Such a nice and superb article, we have been looking for this information about packaging materials regulations United States. Indeed a great post about it!!

    3. Joe PASTORIZA at 7:27 am

      I ordered a floor lamp from Lowe’s department store and it was packaged in foam in the minute I open the the phone went all over the house in a little specks I suffer from laryngospasm I have my dog He suffers from chronic bronchitis is under a veterinary care my wife is diabetic and she also has long issues this White packaging phom is al
      l over my house, including my dogs bowl

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 1:36 pm

        Hello Joe,

        That’s terrible to hear. Not sure, but maybe there’s somewhere you can report this?

    4. Sumeet Chopra at 7:09 pm

      Hi! we are an indian enterprise looking to start selling candles on Amazon. We are primarily selling beeswax candles in Terracotta Pots & soy tea light candles. we are not very sure of the packaging , labeling & product standardization rules. We have been although quite successfully selling in India. Please advice

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