How do companies that sell products nationwide comply with a host of federal, state, and even local packaging and labeling requirements? It can be confusing, with dozens of agencies overseeing product labeling and packaging requirements depending on product categories, ingredients, and potential hazards.

According to Geoff Pick, President of Clear Print, “In our experience, no company makes different formulas, packaging, and labels for different states.” Instead, they follow a simple 3-step strategy to create product labels that are acceptable in any state.

  1. Ensure the label meets all applicable federal requirements for that product category.
  2. Determine if any federal preemption or exemptions apply to the product, which could override certain state labeling rules.
  3. Review the California labeling requirements for the product and design a label or package that satisfies all requirements.

The idea behind this approach is that California is considered one of the most stringent states in their consumer protection laws and product labeling requirements. In most cases, a California-compliant label or package is likely to be acceptable throughout the US.

Of course, there can be exceptions to this. A conversation with experienced colleagues within a company’s niche can bring to light such exceptions. Talking with experienced packaging and label suppliers like Clear Print can also help a brand through the compliance maze.

Below is a quick review of the federal label and packaging requirements, followed by an overview of California label and packaging requirements.

Federal Packaging and Label Requirements

The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) sets national requirements for labeling of consumer commodities, including the product identity, manufacturer information, and net quantity statements in both metric and U.S. customary units. The FDA and other federal agencies like USDA also have specific labeling requirements for food, drugs, cosmetics, etc. A California-compliant label must still meet these federal baseline requirements.

Federal Preemption and Exemption of State Labeling Laws

Federal regulations may preempt or exempt certain products from state labeling requirements. For instance, meat and poultry products regulated by USDA are exempt from state labeling laws under certain conditions.

Below is a table from the National Institute of Standards & Technology that outlines a wide range of products and the primary federal governing agency for packaging and labeling in the US.

Product

Governing Agency

All – product claims (marketing, environmental)

Automobile parts

Batteries containing cadmium and/or lead electrodes

Carpet and Rugs (flammability)

Certain appliances (covered under energy efficiency and Energy Guide Standards)

Chemical substances and mixtures (besides food, drugs, cosmetics)

Children’s Sleepwear

Cosmetics

Food (except meat, poultry and processed eggs) and Food Contact

Food (meat, Poultry, and processed eggs)

Hazardous household substances

Jewelry

Mattresses

Medical devices

Organic products, including fibers

Pesticides

Portable generators

Products used in the workplace

Radio frequency devices

Textiles, fur, wool, footwear

Tobacco, beer and distilled spirits

Toys, children’s products, juvenile products

Walk-behind mowers

Packaging and Labeling Laws and Regulations in California

General Overview

California has stringent regulations for the labeling and packaging of various products, including food, alcoholic beverages, and cannabis products. These regulations are enforced by different state departments to ensure consumer safety and compliance with both state and federal standards.

Below is a list of products by categories. Each category includes relevant laws and state governing agencies.

  • Food Products
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Hazardous Materials Including Paint, Chemicals, and Fertilizer
  • Household Cleaning Supplies
  • Vitamins and Supplements
  • Cosmetics, Health and Beauty Products, and Personal Care Products
  • Weights and Measures

Although the last item, Weights and Measures, isn’t a product category, it’s an area of compliance for all types of product label and packaging.

Food Products

  • Weights and Measures: The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Measurement Standards ensures the accuracy of commercial weighing and measuring devices and the correct labeling of products sold by weight, measure, or count.
  • Packaging and Labeling: The 2002 California Health and Safety Code, Fair Packaging and Labeling, requires that labels on food, drugs, devices, or cosmetics bear the common or usual name of the article, and that packaging and labeling regulations conform to federal standards unless otherwise specified.
  • Contact Information Division of Measurement Standards: Phone: (916) 229-3000, Email: dms@cdfa.ca.gov.

Alcoholic Beverages

  • Label Requirements: The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control requires specific labeling for alcoholic beverages, including health warnings and the prohibition of certain substances like BPA in packaging.
  • Proposition 65 Warnings: New regulations require warning signs about Proposition 65 dangers, which include warnings for alcoholic beverages containing chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm.
  • Contact Information: California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Visit the Alcoholic Beverage Control contact page to find your local district office or call (916) 419-2500.

Weights and Measures

Hazardous Materials Including Paint, Chemicals, and Fertilizer

  • Regulatory Body: Governed by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).
  • Relevant Regulation: Hazardous Waste Labeling Requirements
  • Hazard Communication Standard: Under California’s Hazard Communication Standard (Title 8, Section 5194), manufacturers or importers must classify the hazards of chemicals and provide detailed labels and safety data sheets to communicate hazards to users.
  • Labeling Requirements: California mandates specific labeling for hazardous waste, including hazardous materials like paint, chemicals, and fertilizers. The labels must include detailed information such as the composition, hazard risks, and safety instructions.
  • Contact Information: The DTSC Contact page has listings for their Regulatory Assistance Officers, office locations, and other hazardous waste contacts.

Household Cleaning Supplies

  • Regulatory Body: Also governed by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control listed under Hazardous materials, above.
  • Labeling Requirements: Governed by the California Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017 (SB 258).This act requires manufacturers to list ingredients on the labels of cleaning products and provide additional information online. It covers a wide range of products including air care, automotive products, general cleaning products, and polishes or floor maintenance products.
  • Ingredient Disclosure: The law mandates the disclosure of intentionally added ingredients and certain chemicals present at or above specified concentrations. Manufacturers must also provide a website address on the product label for more detailed ingredient information.
  • Contact Information: DTSC Contact page.

Vitamins and Supplements

Cosmetics, Health and Beauty Products, and Personal Care Products

The cosmetics category is overseen primarily by the California Safe Cosmetics Program at the CA Department of Public Health. In addition to federal regulations, they are guided by the following California cosmetics regulations.

To sum it up, the regulatory maze for packaging and labeling requirements can be simplified with the three steps mentioned above. First check that the label meets all applicable federal requirements for that product category. Second, determine if any federal preemption or exemptions apply. Third, review the California labeling requirements and design a label or package that satisfies all state requirements.

Developing strong relationships with packaging and labeling suppliers like Clear Print can streamline this process. A good relationship also leads to better pricing, more favorable terms, and in-depth advice on other cost-saving measures specific to a company’s products.

Questions about packaging and label requirements?

Call Clear Print at 818-709-1220. Or send them specs on any label, packaging, or print project and they’ll get back to you to discuss.

Geoffrey Pick

President

Please call now to discuss your project.