• Packaging Materials Regulations in the United States: An Overview

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    Product regulations also extend to packaging materials and labeling. In this guide, we cover the basics of federal and state-level packaging materials regulations and requirements in the United States.

    Mentioned Products

    • Electronics packaging
    • Toy packaging
    • Paper packaging
    • Food packaging
    • Plastic packaging containers
    • Recycled/reused containers
    • Wrappers

    Fair Packaging Labeling Act (FPLA)

    The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) is enforced by FTC and enacted for the purpose of facilitating value comparisons among similar products and to prevent deceptive packaging and labeling claims of household goods.

    Scope of the regulation

    The Fair Packaging Labeling Act is applicable to general consumer products. According to the definition stated by the US Metric Association, consumer products are anything that is packaged for retail sale to individuals, used for personal care, or used within the household, and the products are consumable, either be eaten or finished.

    The following articles are excluded by the FPLA from the list of consumer products:

    • Toys
    • Hardware
    • Sporting goods
    • Meats
    • Poultry
    • Tobacco
    • Prescription drugs
    • Alcoholic beverages
    • Seeds

    Click here for a clearer explanation for consumer / non-consumer products by the US Metric Association.

    packaging-materials-regulations-us

    Labeling requirements

    FPLA sets a series of standards for product labeling contents in terms of wording, typesetting, design, units, and more. Below are some requirements regarding labeling contents importers should adhere to when importing products that are FPLA-applicable to the US.

    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;

    4. Labels should be in a distinctive style and contrast with other matters on the package;

    5. Labels should be printed in a font and typeface that are to be (i) in a fixed proportion to the main viewing window of the package, and (ii) consistent across all parcels of roughly equivalent size;

    6. Labels should consist of lines of text typeset so as to run horizontally when the container is in the orientation in which it is designed to be viewed.

    Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA)

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

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

    However, in order for the elderly and people with disabilities to open the packaging without too much difficulty, the Act allows that such products may be packed in “non-complying size” bearing a warning statement such as ’This product is not recommended for use in households with children”.

    Such products must also be supplied in compliance with popular size packages.

    Scope of the regulation

    Household products that contain an excessive amount of chemicals and pollutants (generally medicines and cosmetic products) might fall under the regulation of PPPA. For example:

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

    Basic requirements

    The PPPA requires that all applicable products’ packaging to be constructed in a way that makes it significantly difficult for children under 5 years old to unpack, meanwhile normal for adults to use properly.

    We suggested importers have their products assessed by qualified child-testing companies such as SGS, QIMA, Bureau Veritas, or others.

    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 will find a non-comprehensive overview of some of these regulations.

    Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulation (UPLR)

    The Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulations (UPLR) serves as a guide for packaging and 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 purpose of the UPLR is to raise the awareness of the public about the safety of the products by demanding the manufacturers and importers to provide accurate and adequate information to 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:

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

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

    3. 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, gravies, etc., and the tray itself is not intended to be sold;

    4. 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;

    5. Packages intended for export to foreign countries.

    Basic requirements

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

    • identity of the commodity (e.g., soap, hand soap)
    • Name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor
    • Net quantity of contents or numerical count in metric units

    Click here for the NIST Handbook 130-2012 on Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulation.

    Bag Suffocation Warning

    Some states in the US have established regulations for the size, thickness and labeling requirements for plastic bags, for the purpose of protecting the safety of children and help prevent child suffocations. The following list shows the requirements for the specifications of plastic bags in several states in the US:

    States/ municipalitiesThe label is required if
    CaliforniaSize of opening>25in2 or capacity>125in3
    ChicagoBags intended for household use, other than the ones used for food products weighing ≤ 5lb
    MassachusettsSize of opening in diameter ≥ 7in. and Length + Width ≥ 25in
    New YorkSize of opening in diameter ≥ 7in. and Length + Width ≥ 25in
    Rhode IslandSize of opening in diameter > 5in
    VirginiaLabeling is required for DRY CLEANING BAGS if Length totals ≥ 25in

    Model Toxics in Packaging Legislation

    The Model Toxics in Packaging Legislation was passed by the Source Reduction Council of the Coalition of Northeastern Governors (CONEG), aiming to reduce the concentration of heavy metals and pollutants in packaging and packaging components that are sold or distributed throughout the United States.

    This legislation regulates the number of heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium in packaging. Currently, 19 states in the US recognize this legislation.

    California’s Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Law

    In order 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 all products manufactured, imported to and sold in California that use rigid plastic packaging container, must be compliant with one of the following requirements:

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

    2. The container must be reusable

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

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

    5. 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, medical devices
    • A Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) material
    • A hazardous material subject to US Department of Transportation regulations

    Other States Regulations

    Here a list of other packaging regulations implemented in various states:

    a. New York State’s Hazardous Packaging Law

    b. Washington State 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 Solid Waste Management Toxics Reduction

    Packaging Lab Testing

    Compliance can only be verified through third-party lab testing. We recommend that you book testing through a well-known testing and certification company, such as QIMA, Bureau Veritas or SGS. You must also provide the following information when booking the lab test:

    • Packaging materials (e.g. PP plastic)
    • The US states you will sell your product to
    • Age group

    Other Regulations

    Country of Origin

    19 Code of Federal Regulations 134 Regulations require that every product imported to the US from foreign countries must bear a Country of Origin mark, indicating the product’s source of origin, in a conspicuous and indelible way, to the consumers in the US.

    Examples

    • Made in the United States
    • Made in China
    • Made in Vietnam
    • Made in Germany
    • Made in Italy

    Note: The country of origin should reflect the manufacturing country of the product, not 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

    All 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 all consumer products sold in California. Products that contain excessive amounts of toxic chemical content would be banned and prohibited to sell in California. Regulated products include packaging materials.

    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.

    When applicable, this is the only acceptable alternative to third-party testing.

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    Disclaimer: The content on this website is provided for general information only. The content includes summaries written by our team members based on publicly available information about product safety standards, labeling, documentation, testing, processes, and other product compliance related topics. However, we don’t guarantee that we cover every single relevant regulation/standard/requirement, or that the information is free from errors, or covering every single scenario and exemption. We do make mistakes from time to time. We never provide legal advice of any sort.

    Changes/Updates: Product standards and substance restrictions are subject to frequent updates and changes. In addition, new regulations, standards, and/or requirements may also become effective at any time. We don’t update our articles whenever new standards/regulations/rules are added or changed. We recommend that you consult a lab testing company or other professional to get the latest information about mandatory standards/regulations in your market, country, or state. Lab testing companies generally stay up to date on new and updated standards and regulations.

    National/State-Level Standards/Regulations: Many articles don't cover all European national and US state standards, regulations, and requirements. We recommend that you consult a testing company or other professional to confirm all relevant (and current) national/state level standards and regulations.
  • 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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