Navigating Packaging Regulations

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The guiding principle of packaging regulations makes good sense—ensure the safety of consumers.

Like many government issues, there is a patchwork quilt of regulations for manufacturers to abide by. Some are Federal laws while others are in various stages of enactment by State. And it is different for restaurant product packaging versus consumer products. And not all product categories are covered by some laws. Sound complicated? It is.

Let’s start with Federal packaging regulations. One law that has broad applicability is the Fair Labeling and Protection Act (FLPA), which is implemented by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It is designed to help consumers make product comparisons and to prevent deceptive packaging or labeling claims. Personal care and household goods must comply with FLPA regs but food, cosmetics, drugs and tobacco do not.

The second Federal regulation is labeling requirements mandated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It standardizes what is mandatory and includes the contents and quantity of the package, a nutritional facts statement, ingredients, allergens (if any), place of manufacture, bar code, and “best used by” or freshness expiration date. If you want to sell your products, you must play by these rules. And none are controversial.

The third Federal regulation is the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA). This law specifically applies to those medicines, cosmetics or cleaning products that may contain chemicals or pollutants. It is designed to protect kids under the age of 5 from opening and eating or drinking the contents and being exposed to dangerous stuff. Think about furniture polish, lighter fluid, medicines, etc. The packaging must be significantly difficult for kids to open while still relatively easy for adults to use.

Now let’s turn to State level packaging laws. In the Upper Midwest, it varies widely.

The Model Toxics in Packaging Legislation was enacted in 1989 for adoption by States with a goal of reducing the amount of heavy metals in packaging and packaging components. Nineteen States have adopted the legislation including Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri.

Another issue is the control of PFAS in packaging (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). While this is a bigger concern for restaurant packaging (e.g., grease resistant papers, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, fast food bags), it is also an issue for candy wrappers, cosmetics, household cleaners, and personal care products. Twenty-two States have enacted or proposed laws.

A well-publicized set of laws that largely impact food service, restaurant and grocery stores restrict or outright ban the use of Styrofoam or polystyrene cups, containers, or straws. These products are a legitimate environmental nightmare as the material does not breakdown in landfills. And the number of cups thrown away today is a staggering 25 billion annually, according to the EPA. Eight States and the District of Columbia have banned foam containers, cups and packaging. Twelve States have banned plastic bags. The good news is there are now many alternatives available including paper-based products that are recyclable, reusable containers, or plant fiber based products.

The safety of our kids, our families, and our planet are of paramount importance. So, all of these regs help move us in the right direction. It may take some getting used to alternative materials. Your packaging suppliers are, and have been, hard at work to find workable solutions that are economically viable.

At Damen Jackson, we are here to be with you every step of the way. We will use our experience to help ensure your packaging is in compliance with all requirements and regulations, find and recommend partners who are experts in FDA rules, to evaluating alternative packaging materials, to aid in crafting new claims for your products, to designing your packaging. We get it, this is important stuff, and these are critical decisions.

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