On our list: Updating fair packaging and labeling rules

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It was a new era for shoppers in the 1960s. Suburbs, malls and grocery stores boomed. Esso “put a tiger in your tank.” And unscrupulous marketers came up with some new tricks. It turns out that a “jumbo pound” weighed, you guessed it – one pound. Into the fray entered the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), signed into law in 1966. 

At Congress’ request, the FTC studied the packaging and labeling problems that consumers faced as they tried to smartly shop for “consumer commodities,” which the law defined as those things fully used up in the shopper’s home (other than things that other government folk regulate, like food and alcohol).

The FTC ultimately issued regulations on how companies had to package and label their products to benefit consumers, without undue burden on business. No longer would shoppers need to wear Mr. Magoo’s glasses in store aisles – the regulations told companies they had to identify the product, its quantity, and its source, in a specific way and at a particular place on the package. 

But the FTC knows the marketplace doesn’t stay frozen in time. So last year the Commission reviewed its FPLA regulations to see if they needed to be overhauled. After conducting a systematic review, the Commission decided the FPLA regulations still benefit shoppers and sellers. The Commission  proposes two newsworthy changes. 

First, the Commission plans to update the FPLA rules for the internet era. Right now, a business has to list its full address on the label – but the company can drop the street address if it’s in a telephone directory. The Commission’s proposed changes say it’s OK for a business to drop the street address if it’s listed in any readily accessible, well-known, widely published, and publicly available resource, like the company’s website.

Second, the Commission proposes to delete regulations that refer to outdated advertising phrases. In the 1960s, “cents off,” “introductory offer,” and “economy-size” were popular enticements to shoppers. But now those terms are as rare as rabbit ears on a TV, so the Commission plans to delete regulations on when and how a company uses those phrases on packages and labels. 

The Commission is seeking comment on its proposed changes to the FPLA regulations. You can comment until March 30, 2015.

Comments

Natural - should be deleted from labels as they may have GMOs and not be natural.

GMO - should be labeled if product contain them.

% free versus competitor - It's misleading and it's really not free. (Ex 15%.free [then in smaller font] than the competitor).

Hi, SMJ. Posting a comment on the Business Blog won't substitute for putting a comment on the record. To make sure your voice is heard, it's easy to comment here: https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/ftc/fplanprm/

Will review studies and render suggestions prior March 1, 2015. Have a wonderful day and Happy Valentine Day.

I would like labeling and packaging to say when an item is MADE IN THE USA. As I understand it, the current rules do not distinguish between when something is made in the U.S., and when it is distributed in the U.S. I think that currently you can even label something "Made in U.S.A." if it is made in an overseas or an outsourced factory and then distributed in the U.S.

I would like to see goods distributed in the USA, by USA companies, list the country of origin for the goods that they are distributing.

Rather than still requiring city and state of the manufacturer, the Commission should consider permitting website address.

Andrea, to make sure the FTC considers your suggestion, please file an online comment on this FTC site: https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/ftc/fplanprm/

It's fast and informal -- and it's the only way to make sure your views are heard as part of the ongoing review of the rules. Thanks!

All packaging on American shelves must be in English and have a contact for the product!

Since the FDA and USDA ("other government folk") are failing to let the American public know if their food has been genetically modified, I'd like to see the FTC take this on. Consumers consume food and it our fundamental right to a clear label indicating if the food has been genetically modified.

I strongly agreed that, the packaging is in a language that all will understand, and must have a contact details from the manufacturers.

How does the FPLA relate to bulk products imported and available through on-line distributors? Can an exterior carton label fulfill the requirements of the FPLA while the interior unit packaging is in the originating country language, e.g. Chinese?

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