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Packaging and Labeling

The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) and other Federal laws and regulations govern the labeling requirements for most consumer products; however, many products fall only under state laws.

Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA)

The FPLA relates only to the net quantity of contents information on packages, goods, or commodities that are sold on the basis of weight or measure (i.e., it does not apply to such products as electronic or industrial equipment that have contents sold by the quantity of their contents and appliances).

Labeling requirements for packaged goods are applied to packages based on who will be the ultimate consumer. There are two classifications of products: one class is “consumer” packages that are intended for sale in retail stores, such as food or department stores. The other class is “non-consumer” packages that are intended for sale in wholesale trade, such as by a manufacturer who packages 25 kilogram bags of chemicals for sale to another manufacturer for use in producing another product. The FPLA requirements are not applicable to all packaged goods.

The FPLA was amended in 1992 to require that metric (SI) units be displayed on packages to familiarize consumers with metric units so that they could learn to equate familiar quantities to the metric units of measure. Some manufacturers have included metric units on package labels for more than 30 years. The metric units have proven informative and have helped consumers learn to relate metric quantities to the equivalent inch-pound quantities.

Metric Labeling in the U.S. Marketplace

In an effort to characterize current U.S. marketplace labeling practices, the net quantity of contents statement labeling of at least 1137 packages was examined in 19 retail stores, including those that sell food, home and personal care products, hobby and arts and crafts products, automotive, hardware, office products, and pet supplies. The assessment found that retailers across the United States are selling both domestically packaged and imported products labeled with only metric units in the net quantity of content statement.

Of those packages examined, 17 % declared the net quantity of contents in only metric units. Almost 57.5 % of those metric packages were found to be noncompliant with current FPLA dual labeling requirements. The majority of the parties responsible for manufacturing or distributing 61 % of the metric products were U.S. companies. Metric packages are present in the U.S. marketplace and consumer exposure to metric packaging is growing as demonstrated by their availability in a broad range of retail stores.

marketplace Marketplace Assessment - Metric Labeling on Packages in Retail Stores
Edition: Dec. 2009
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Proposal to Amend the FPLA for Permissible Metric Labeling

Proposed FPLA amendments would give U.S. manufacturers and packagers greater flexibility to provide labeling information that meets the needs of their diverse consumers, allowing them to label their products with either metric units or with both metric and inch-pound units. The proposed amendments do not to apply to unit pricing, advertising, recipes, nutrition labeling, other general pricing information, or require changes in package sizes.

voluntary Voluntary Metric Labeling
Edition: Dec. 2009
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nz 2002 Letter: New Zealand, Ministry of Consumer Affairs
Edition: Oct. 2002
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Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulation (UPLR)

The National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) has eliminated barriers to the use of metric units in trade and commerce in all of its model laws and regulations so that the marketplace is free to use metric (SI) units when consumers and business decide to change. Since January 1, 2000, the Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulation (UPLR, NIST HB 130 - 2013) has allowed metric net quantity declarations on consumer packages not subject to Federal regulations. The UPLR has allowed metric labeling on non-consumer packages (those packages marked for wholesale and industrial trade) for more than 20 years.

Today, under state and local laws, all scales, gas pumps and other weighing and measuring instruments used in trade and commerce can be calibrated to weigh or measure using the SI. Also, unit pricing for products sold by weight can be by the price per kilogram or price per 100 grams (e.g., if a product costs $7.69 per pound its unit price in metric units would be shown as $16.95 per kilogram or $1.69 per 100 grams).

NIST has developed Special Publication 1020 Labeling Guides to aid packagers, label designers, manufacturers and others in understanding the method of sale and labeling requirements under the UPLR in NIST HB 130 - 2013, which is the basis for the labeling regulations in most states. Each guide provides examples of how to correctly label packages in both metric and inch-pound by weight, measure (e.g., length, width, thickness and area), fluid volume, dry volume, and count.

straub-ncwm 2002 Presentation: National Conference of Weights and Measures (NCWM) - Metric in the Marketplace
Edition: 2002
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juiceboxes3-sm

Dual and Metric Packaging Examples - Juice A and B feature a dual net quantity of contents statement in the label, which is required under the current FPLA. Juice C features a metric label, which is currently permitted under the UPLR, but prohibited by the current FPLA. The proposed FPLA amendment would permit U.S. manufacturers to choose either dual or metric labeling for their products. Read More.