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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.
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In addition to standard units of measure, another symbol can be found on the net contents line on European product labels. While some refer to this symbol as the “e” mark, it is not an “e”—the correct name is the Estimated Symbol, which is shown in Figure 1. Some companies have encountered trouble by displaying this mark incorrectly, which should not occur since this symbol is the Estimated Symbol in 212E from Unicode, as listed by Microsoft Word.
This symbol is voluntary and manufacturers are not required to use it on their product labels. The symbol indicates to the EU that the manufacturer will comply with the EU Regulations of average fill. Thus, if a manufacturer lists it on a product label, they must comply. This symbol only applies to goods shipped within the EU and has no meaning for those shipped into the EU from non-member states.
While some US manufacturers list this symbol on product labels, they typically do so to copy other labels or give the impression that their product is approved in the EU. The United States is a minimum fill country and not an average fill market like the EU. This difference makes it difficult to comply with both market regulations.
Rules for using the Estimated Symbol in the EU include: the average quantity of product in a batch of prepackages shall not be less than the nominal quantity stated on the label; the proportion of prepackages having a negative error greater than the tolerable negative error shall be sufficiently small for batches of prepackages to satisfy the requirements of the official reference test, as specified in legislation; and no prepackage having a negative error greater than twice the tolerable negative error may bear the Estimated Symbol.
Failure to comply with the above requirements, or violations such as incorrect size, location or font, can result in penalties such as the recall of all goods, fines, and even prohibition from conducting business in the EU. Finished products of 5 g or 5 mL or less are not eligible to use this symbol.