Global Sources
SmartChinaSourcing.com
Ready to import from China? Find verified suppliers on Global Sources.
Share / Recommend:

Product labeling regulations in the US, EU and Australia

by Fredrik Grönkvist

Product Labeling China

The product label is as important as any other aspect of the product. Product labeling requirements are part of most product safety standards and legal directives in Europe, United States and Australia. Neglecting labeling regulations can result in your products being refused entry by the customs authorities, or subject to a forced recall.

But that’s not all. Getting your label right when buying from Chinese suppliers is not always that simple. Few Chinese suppliers are aware of how a label shall be designed, and what information it shall contain, in order to ensure compliance. But that’s not all.. In this article we introduce you to labeling regulations in the US, EU and Australia – and explain what you need to know when designing it. 

Designing your product label

Before I get started with national product labeling requirements, I want to say a few things about the design process itself. Chinese manufacturers are accustomed to manufacture products according to the buyer’s product specifications. If you leave something out, they’ll fill in the gap for you.

Never rely on your supplier to design a product label for you. The vast majority simply have no clue about national labeling requirements in other countries. Below follows a list of the information you shall provide your supplier with:

  • Layout and text
  • Font
  • Pantone colors
  • Images
  • Dimensions
  • Print or sticker position
  • Label material

Getting this material “confirmed” by your supplier through email is not enough. Refer to all relevant files in the Sales Agreement, and get a photocopy of the product label signed and stamped by the supplier before production begins.

Labeling Requirements in United States

There are no Federal labeling regulations that apply to all products. Instead, product labeling requirements are part of various product safety directives – that in turn apply in different ways to different products. But it doesn’t end there. Some states also have their own labeling regulations in place. Sounds complicated? It is! Below follows a summary of the factors that decide how your product shall be labeled in the United States:

  • Federal Regulations
  • State Regulations
  • Type of product
  • Applicable product safety standard / act

While many Federal Agencies often refer to the “manufacturer” on their websites, this only applies to domestic manufactures in the USA – not to foreign manufacturers. When a product is manufactured overseas, the importer is always responsible for ensuring that a product is labeled in compliance with the relevant regulations. This responsibility cannot be shifted to a foreign manufacturer – even if they are to blame.

  1. Tracking Label for Children’s Products (CPSC)
  2. Food Products (FDA)
  3. Medical Device (FDA)
  4. Cosmetics (FDA)
  5. Textile, Apparel, Footwear and Travel Goods (OTEXA)

However, thousands of products don’t fall into a category that is regulated by specific labeling requirements. Still, that doesn’t mean they are exempt from any form of labeling regulation. This is what the CPSC states:

“The Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) requires precautionary labeling on the immediate container of hazardous household products to help consumers safely store and use those products and to give them information about immediate first aid steps to take if an accident happens.”

The FHSA labeling requirements apply to essentially all products that fall under any of the following statements:

  • If your product can cause injury or illness when it’s swallowed or absorbed through the skin
  • If your product is a strong sensitizer
  • If your product is “extremely flammable”, “flammable”, and “combustible”

Click here for more guidelines and information about FHSA product labeling requirements.

Labeling Requirements in European Union

The basics of product labeling also applies in the European Union. It’s your responsibility to ensure that any product imported by your company is labeled according to the relevant regulation. The major difference, however, is that the EU has implemented a lot more product specific regulations. This makes it quite a lot easier to determine how a certain product shall be labeled. Currently, there are specific marks and labeling requirements in place for the following products:

  • Textiles
  • Cosmetics
  • Dangerous Substances
  • Electrical & Electronic Equipment
  • Household Appliances
  • Footwear
  • Tires
  • Wood packaging
  • Toys

All products imported to the European Union are also subject to product certification requirements. These certification directives also include their own product labeling requirements.

CE Mark

If your product is regulated by one or more CE directives, you must attach the CE mark to your product, or its packing. In other words, you need to get the CE mark printed somewhere, in compliance with the following guidelines:

  • The marking shall consist of the initials “CE” in the standard form
  • The marking shall be at least 5 millimeters (unless a specific CE directive allows smaller marking)
  • The marking shall be affixed to product manuals
  • If printing the mark on the product is not practical, the mark shall be assigned to the packing

However, the labeling requirements are not limited to the CE mark itself. Additional information about the item, importer, contact information and country of origin is also required on the product label.

RoHS Labeling

Starting in 2013, RoHS is part of the CE directive. Therefore, products that are CE marked shall also be compliant with RoHS. No separate RoHS marking is required. As a matter of fact, that was not even the case when RoHS was a separate directive.

WEEE Labeling

The WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directive applies to a wide range of electrical products and appliances. The WEEE directive requires the seller to print the WEEE mark symbol on the product.

REACH Labeling

Hazardous substances, and mixtures containing such substances, are subject to CLP (Classification, Labeling and Packaging) regulations. So far, this only applies to cosmetics and chemicals, not to consumer products. Considering the number of substances regulated by the REACH directive, it would be quite hard to fit them all on a product label.

However, if a product contains more than 0.1% of a REACH regulated chemical, the importer is required to inform the customer about safe usage. What this really means varies between different products.

Labeling Requirements in Australia

Many products imported to Australia are required to comply with certain product safety standards. These regulations also cover labeling requirements. As of today, the following products are regulated by one or more product safety standards:

Toys & Children’s products

Toys for children to and including 3 years, Toys and finger paints containing lead or other substances, Toys containing magnets, Inflatable toys, Projectile toys, Prams and strollers, Nightwear for children, Cots, Bunk beds, Balloon blowing kits, Baby walkers, Baby dummies, Baby bath aids, Aquatic toys.

Sports & Outdoor

Soccer goals, Portable swimming pools, Exercise cycles, Basketball rings and backboards, Treadmills.

Textiles & Accessories

Sunglasses, Luggage straps, Clothing & Textiles (Care labeling).

Vehicles, accessories, parts & tools

Vehicle ramps, Recovery straps for vehicles, MC helmets, Jacks, Bicycle helmets, Bicycles (pedal bicycles), Motor Vehicles (Child restraints).

Home & Furniture

Bean bags, Blinds, curtains and window fittings.

Other

Hot water bottles, Fire extinguishers, Cosmetics, Disposable cigarette lighters.

Penalties for Noncompliance

Product labeling is serious business. Failing to comply may result in a forced recall or having your products refused entry by the customs. While relabeling is often allowed allowed, assuming the products are compliant with the relevant regulations, it’s a time consuming and expensive process. Get it right from the beginning and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and money.

Need a helping hand? When you order a Starting Package, right here on Chinaimportal.com, we confim applicable labeling requirements for your product. Click here to find out more.


Fredrik Grönkvist is the co-founder of ScandinAsian Enterprise in Shanghai. Since 2010, he and his team have helped hundreds of companies worldwide, primarily in the EU and US, to develop and manufacture products in China. He is also the main contributor on www.chinaimportal.com, a leading knowledge base for small- to medium-sized enterprises importing from Asia. For further questions, you can contact him on www.chinaimportal.com/contact-us/.

Add comment


Security code
Refresh

Stay Connected

Get Import from China Headlines by E-mail

Attend the Global Sources Summit


  • For online & Amazon sellers
  • Interactive training led by sourcing & Amazon experts
  • Learn how to source profitably, avoid pitfalls
  • October 17 - 19, 2016 in Hong Kong
  • Co-located with Mobile Electronics and
    Gifts & Home shows


Learn More

Join the Smart China Sourcing Facebook Group
  • Connect with other buyers
  • Ask questions
  • Get advice from experts


Join Group

Join Global Sources on Facebook

Be our fan now for the latest sourcing news, practical sourcing guides and expert advice.

Follow Global Sources on Twitter

We'll keep you updated with tweets on sourcing news, trade resources & more.