16 CFR Parts 500-503: Rules, Regulations, Statements of General Policy or Interpretation and Exemptions Under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act ("FPLA" or "Act"); Project No. R411015
FPLA Rules, 16 CFR Parts 500-503, Project No. R411015 I appreciate this opportunity to comment as a consumer on the FTC's Rules in support of FPLA. I will first comment on need, then on three ways to improve net content labeling from the point of view of the consumer. The FTC rules seem to implement the intent of the law well and these three improvements MAY require changes in the FPLA law, or may be achievable through inter-agency cooperation and/or interpretation. Need: Clear net content labeling is essential to the consumer to know what he is getting and avoid being cheated. Interstate commerce requires that this be one uniform law, not "50 States = 50 Ways." I would like to give a recent example of the need. Pasta manufacturers sell in many size packages, but the 1 lb. package has been traditional. Recently, they have introduced healthier "white fiber" and "whole grain" pastas in EXACTLY the same size cardboard box, but only 12-13 oz. instead of a pound. I find this fairly deceptive and only accurate net content labeling protects me. Exemptions: The commodity exemptions in the FTC rules basically parallel those in the FPLA law, specifically 15 USC 1459. However, the consumer cares about the accuracy and completeness of the information he is given, not the structure of the Federal government. If metric net contents (required on most standard packages) are important, does it make sense that it is NOT required on meat and poultry because it is regulated by the USDA, or on beer because it is regulated by the TTB. Perhaps a change in the law is needed or perhaps agencies need to cooperate better, but net content labels need to be consistent across what the consumer considers to be consumer commodities. Compound Units: The Customary units declaration is fine if the manufacturer has picked a nice round size. The FPLA law 15 USC 1453(a)(3) allows either decimal fractions of the largest whole unit or compound units in descending order of largest whole unit. These compound units can be very confusing. 16 CFR 500.10 gives examples of 1 qt. 1 pt. 8 oz. and 2 gallons 2 quarts where 1.75 qt and 2.5 gallons would be clearer. The decimal fractions are already allowed, but I believe the compound units should be discouraged as confusing. I frankly ignore the compound declaration and just use the metric declaration or the total fluid ounces to understand what I'm getting. Getting to a single Customary form and single metric form would reduce the verboseness of the declaration and save space. Permissive metric only: This absolutely would require a change in the FPLA law. In 1988, Congress declared the metric system was preferred for trade and commerce. Most nations use ONLY the metric system and present dual requirements place burdens on both importers and exporters. If metric is preferred, Customary shouldn't be required, although it should still be allowed. Products which are already dual labeled could remain as they are, or, at the manufacturer's option, drop the Customary declaration and be metric only. Since not everyone would do this all at once, the public would have time to accommodate themselves; metric has been taught in schools since the 70's or earlier. Special provisions and a phase-in period would have to be made for products which only require a Customary net contents declaration, such as meat and poultry, random-weight and weighed-at-retail packages.