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Cosmetics, Drugs and Labels

By: Rick Van Arnam, Esq.
Posted: January 10, 2008, from the January 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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The label on the outer container must also state the product name, identify the commodity (in terms of the common or usual name—it can be an illustration or it can be a fanciful name if the nature of the cosmetic is obvious) and set out the accurate net quantity of the cosmetic(s) in the package.

The label requirements for the product’s actual container differ slightly from those of the outer packaging. This label must contain the same information as found on the outer packaging with the exception of the ingredient declaration. That being said, if the outer container is removed so that the product’s actual container becomes, in effect, the outer packaging, then the labeling information required on the outer packaging is now required on the actual container.

When a cosmetic contains a drug, the outer label is structured differently. In this situation, drugs must be identified (and done so first) as an “active ingredient,” separate from the other cosmetic ingredients. Also, any type of alcohol is to be listed first as an active ingredient. Cosmetic ingredients would then be listed thereafter as “cosmetic ingredients.”

A last point on labeling is worth stressing, and that is the devil is in the details. The regulations require that the necessary information be displayed in certain panels using certain font sizes set out in a conspicuous way. Issues involving U.S. country of origin marking also arise for imported merchandise, and this is a topic unto itself. In short, care must be taken to make sure that all regulatory requirements covering labels, labeling and origin marking are satisfied in a legally compliant way.

Final Thoughts
Given the degree of regulations involved on what can be said regarding the benefits of using a particular cosmetic and what has to be stated on labeling to advise purchasers of key information, a periodic review of all such representations is strongly recommended. Check promotional materials and Web sites for exaggerated copy suggesting physical improvements to the human body if a particular product is used. Review product labels to make sure that required information is present and in the proper place on the products. Educate employees to understand why labeling content and how it is presented can impact a company’s compliance status. This simple exercise can catch problems before they arise and before a company finds itself on the wrong side of a seizure notice.