Do you package your handmade cream in a jar? Do you have the product name, volume and your business’ name and address clearly printed on each label? If not, you may be in violation of packaging and labeling laws.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer by profession and nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. Although I strive to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice or free from errors, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a professional in the area for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any professional, business, legal, and financial or tax-related decisions. This information is also not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. If you require legal or other expert advice, you should seek the services of a competent attorney or other professional. I am not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information.
Just because you’re a small business, doesn’t mean you’re exempt from these laws.
I cover packaging laws for US & CANADA in this article.
Although the laws are similar for UK and Australia, they do vary slightly from country to country so please check your local government’s website.
CONSUMER PACKAGING AND LABELLING ACT
This is in place to ensure that prepackaged consumer products are labeled with proper information so that consumers can make informed purchasing decisions. The guide applies to prepackaged non-food consumer products.
Prepackaged refers to items like handmade creams, scrubs, cards, candles etc. that may be packaged in a container or box of some sort.
There are also additional labeling regulations that apply to:
- cosmetics (i.e. soaps, creams, scrubs)
- textile items (i.e clothing, sleepwear, blankets, etc.)
- precious metals (i.e. jewelry)
- food items
LABEL INFORMATION MUST SHOW (US & CANADA):
1) Product Identity
2) Product Net Quantity
3) Dealer’s Name and Place of Business
The details for each point are explained below, for both US and CANADA.
1) PRODUCT IDENTITY
Product Identity refers to the common name of the product (i.e face wash)
- You must clearly identify the contents of the package.
- The product identity must appear on the principal display panel and in a type size and position that can be easily read.
- You must use the common/usual/generic name (e.g. must list “bath salts” as the product identity and can’t simply label the contents “unicorn dust”).
- You cannot be misleading/false/deceptive with your product identity; do not mention any products or ingredients that are not contained in the package.
You may not be required to have this on your label if:
- the product is sold by count (i.e sold by 1 bar of soap as opposed to 100 ml of hand cream) and packaged in a way that the customer is able to see the product
- the product is sold by count and shows an accurate pictorial representation of the contents
The Product Identity must appear in both English and French, except for a few specific cases, which are listed below.
Being a “Local Product” is one of the exceptions, which is when your product is made and sold in a city/town where less than 10% of the population speaks one of the languages.
I wasn’t sure how one could be sure the exact percent of a population that spoke either English or French so I called the bureau and here are some helpful points I was given:
- you can contact Statistics Canada to get the exact percent to be absolutely certain
- you can use your discretion; if you’re fairly certain you’re not serving French-speaking customers you may decide not to include French on your labels
- however, you will still be liable if you decide not to include French and it turns out there actually is more than 10% of the population that speaks French
- the competition bureau responds to complaints; the labeling system works on an honor system so you don’t need your labels approved but if someone complains that a product isn’t labeled properly, they will investigate
- the 10% is for a legal guideline; if someone complains that your label should have French and it doesn’t, they need to have a number to consistently follow whether someone is in violation or not
End of the day, if you’re having labels printed, it may be safest to get them printed with both English and French.
If you’re only selling your products within your city (which speaks English) but a store from French-speaking city contacts you and wants to carry your line, you don’t want to have to rip all your labels off or have new ones printed.
Here are all the exceptions to this bilingual rule; meaning you don’t need to have both English & French when:
- Your product is a test market product
- Your product is a local product
- Your product is a specialty product
- Knowledge of a specific language is required for your product’s use (i.e. greeting cards or books in English require the person to know English in order to use them)
This information must appear on the Principal Display Panel, which is the portion of the package that is normally displayed to the customer (i.e. the front of a box).
For containers that don’t have a particular side or surface, the principal display surface is any 40% of the total surface area of the container (excluding the top and bottom) that is visible to the consumer.
Where the container of a prepackaged product is an ornamental container, all of the labels of the prepackaged product may be applied to the bottom of the container or to a tag that is attached to the container.
*An ornamental container is considered one that may have dual purpose of not only holding the product but being used as a decorative ornament as well. For example; if the container has a raised design, texture or shape that doesn’t allow a label to be placed on it, a label may be applied to the bottom of the container or you may use a tag to attach a label.
D) Text Size
The text must be legible and the type height must be a minimum of 1.6 mm. A little more info on that here.
2) PRODUCT NET QUANTITY
Product net quantity refers to the amount of product that is contained in prepackaged products.
- You must state the net quantity of the ingredients separately and accurately on the principle display panel.
- You must keep the net quantity information separate from other printed information on your label and it must use accurate terms (e.g. must use 500ml and not “jumbo size”). It must appear in the bottom 30% of the principal display panel and parallel to the base of the package. *It gets really specific when it comes to spacing, sizing and placement of net quantity, please read more details under 500.6 (b).
Product Net Quantity must be displayed in the proper choice of measurement, based on your product. For example, you can’t display your Net Quantity by count (i.e. 1 Face Wash) when your face wash is liquid; it needs to be measured by volume (i.e 100ml).
Your products may be measured by:
- Count when the product is sold by individual units (i.e 1 candle)
- Volume when the product is liquid, a gas or is viscous (i.e 100 ml of face wash)
- Metric units of weight when the product is solid (i.e. 10 g bar of soap)
- Length when the product is measured by length (i.e 2 meters of ribbon)
- Metric units of area, length and width as well as number of sheets or rolls when the product is bi-dimensional (i.e wrapping paper)
The Net Quantity is not required on the label if:
- the quantity is measured by count (i.e. 1 candle), the count is 1 and your Product Identity reads singular. For example, if your sticker reads “Scented Candle” and you sell them individually, you do not need to include the Net Quantity on the label. If your label reads “Scented Candles” and you have 6 candles in a package the consumer cannot see inside of, you need to state that there are 6 candles in the package.
- The product is sold by count (i.e. 1 candle) and customers are able to see the contents of the package and there are less than 13 items in the package which can be easily counted. For example, if you sell 6 candles in a set and you’re using a box with a clear lid; the customer can easily see there are 6 candles in the package.
B) Language & Precision
The Net Quantity must also appear in English and French, using a valid metric word or symbol for the unit of measurement you are using and the amount must be rounded off correctly to the required degree of precision.
This information must appear on the Principal Display Panel.
D) Font Type
The quantity must be clear, in bold face type and meet the height requirements; which is dependent on the Principle Display Surface (i.e. the larger the label, the larger the Net Quantity type height must be). Please visit this section for details on that.
3) DEALER’S NAME & PLACE OF BUSINESS (Dealer Identification)
The name of your business and address must be indicated on your label. Yes, even if you work out of your home. The address on your label must be sufficient to ensure postal delivery.
- A label must specify the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packager or distributor. Please see point (a) under section 500.5 here if you do not manufacture the products you sell.
- You must use proper business names on the label (e.g. don’t put “Erin” as a business name if you conduct business under the name “Erin’s Jewels & More”). *On a side note, please be aware if you must register your business name; more information on that is found in this article: DO I NEED A BUSINESS LICENCE TO SELL HANDMADE ITEMS?)
- Place of business must include:
- Street address (this may be omitted if your street address is listed in an accessible, widely published, and publicly available resource, including but not limited to a printed directory, electronic database, or website)
- If you manufacture, package or distribute the product in a place other than your principal place of business, you may state your principle place of business in lieu of the place you manufacture, package or distribute from; as long as it’s not misleading.
- Standard abbreviations may be used
This information must appear on the Principal Display Panel.
The Dealer Identification may be in English OR French and must be clearly legible and the font must be at least 1.6 mm in height.
OTHER IMPORTANT NOTES
The act also ensures that dealers are not selling products in a container that is misleading as to the quantity or quality of the product. Labeling must be factual when it comes to:
- Amount that is contained within the package Substances included
- Quality (if it’s new or used)
- Method of Manufacture (if the item is handmade)
- Origin (where the item is made)
If you’re putting the label “Product of Canada” or “Made in Canada” claims on your labels, they are subject to specific assessment criteria.
If you’re placing “Made in the USA” on your product labels, you must follow their Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims.
As mentioned earlier, the Competition Bureau of Canada responds to complaints so they’re not checking every business for proper labeling practices. That being said, you are liable if someone complains and you are in fact in violation. Not following the sections and regulations of the act can result in a fine, anywhere from $1000 – $10,000 and even imprisonment, depending on the offense. Pretty important to be sure you have all your ducks in a row!
There are other laws your business must follow if you’re selling handmade products. Check out:
- LAWS FOR SELLING HANDMADE
- 3 BIGGEST LEGAL MISTAKES CRAFTERS MAKE
- LAWS FOR SELLING HANDMADE CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES
- LAWS FOR SELLING HANDMADE COSMETICS (BATH & BODY PRODUCTS)
- RULES, REGULATIONS, STATEMENT OF GENERAL POLICY OR INTERPRETATION AND EXEMPTIONS UNDER THE FAIR PACKAGING AND LABELING ACT
- The Guide to the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations – this is a helpful guideline of what you need to follow
- Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act – this is the real deal document with every piece of info on the act
- Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations – this is the real deal document with every piece of info on the regulations
- Labeling Assessment Tools – Consumer Packaging and Labelling – this is a helpful worksheet you can follow to create your labels, which includes examples for different types of products