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Net Contents of a Cosmetic: The ‘E’ Mark and Units of Measure
By: David C. Steinberg, Steinberg & Associates
Posted: December 1, 2009, from the December 2009 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
Recently, some European Union member states have expressed concern over the misuse of the Estimated Symbol (℮), often referred to as the “e” mark, on product labels. In addition, some regulators have argued that the International System of Units, known as the metric system, should be used on all product labels to indicate the net contents of a finished product. Both of these concerns have fueled the present column in which the author debates how product labels should indicate the net contents of a cosmetic product. In closing, he comments on the jurisdiction of the CPSC in the United States.
Net Content Regulations in the United States
In the United States, the net contents of a product are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), which was passed by Congress in 1967. Under 21CFR701.13, the FDA requires net contents to appear on the lower 30% of the principal display panel (PDP), which is what consumers see first, or the outer packaging. The regulation states:
This shall be expressed in terms of weight, measure, numerical count, or a combination of numerical count and weight or measure. The statement shall be in terms of fluid measure if the cosmetic is liquid or in terms of weight if the cosmetic is solid, semisolid, or viscous, or a mixture of solid and liquid. If there is a firmly established, general consumer usage and trade custom of declaring the net quantity of a cosmetic by numerical count, linear measure, or measure of area, such respective term may be used. If there is a firmly established, general consumer usage and trade custom of declaring the contents of a liquid cosmetic by weight, or a solid, semisolid, or viscous cosmetic by fluid measure, it may be used.1
Some may wonder how to interpret this FDA regulation. This author notes that if a product manufacturer fills the product by weight, then it should label that product by weight. Similarly, if the manufacturer fills the product by volume, that product should be labeled by volume.
The regulation also notes: Statements of weight shall be in terms of avoirdupois pound and ounce. Statements of fluid measure shall be in terms of the US gallon of 231 cubic inches and quart, pint, and fluid-ounce subdivisions thereof and shall express the volume at 68°F (20°C).2