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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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Finally, this symbol must be printed ≥ 3 mm on a product label, which may dominate small packages and be visually unappealing.
Metric or Non-metric?
The International System of Units (metric system) is sometimes abbreviated SI for the French “le Système International d’Unités.” Three countries currently do not use the metric system: the United States, Liberia and Myanmar. The United States uses the US customary system for measurement, also known as the American system and sometimes called “English units.” In 1790, Thomas Jefferson proposed a decimal-based measurement system for the United States and in 1792, this decimal-based system was adopted for US currency.7 The Metric Act of 1866 (Public Law 39-183) made it unlawful to refuse trade or deal in metric units. Although the FPLA required English units, it repealed many other laws; however, 39-183 was not one of those repealed.
The big question then becomes: How difficult would it be for the United States to convert all net content declarations in cosmetics to a metric system? Some suggest the American public would not understand and utilize the metric system when purchasing cosmetics. This author believes this is simply not true since every day, millions of Americans buy soda, wine and spirits by the metric system. The nutrition labels on foods are also metric, and American consumers seem to have no problem with that.
In this author’s opinion, the United States should join the rest of the world and use the metric system for personal care products; currently, the United States Metric Association is lobbying for a nationwide conversion to metric. The United States should define net contents by how they are filled and not their form. And in relation to the Estimated Symbol, perhaps if the United States allowed only metric units, the EU would allow the mark to be listed, along with a minimum fill.
Comments on the CPSC
Aside from unrest regarding net content labeling and debate over the metric system, inquiries recently have risen regarding the regulatory jurisdiction of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which was established by the US Congress in 1972 and began functioning in 1973. On Aug. 14, 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (Public Law 110–314) (CPSIA) was passed, restricting lead content to 300 ppm in 2009 and 100 ppm by 2011, and banning diethylhexyl phthalate, dibutyl phthalate and benzyl butyl phthalate from toys for children younger than 12 years of age. Major retailers promptly began sending letters to cosmetic companies demanding compliance with this new law. However, personal care products and cosmetics are regulated by the FDA, not the CPSC.