CPSIA and tracking label requirements

With all the drama over testing, one thing we haven’t discussed is labeling. There’s a new labeling standard required for all product manufactured on or after August 14, 2009. The sources I’ve used for this entry are:

I’ll include the specific section of law at close.

The FAQ seems pretty straightforward. As of 8/14/2009, you need a permanent label (not a sticky or hang tag) on the product and its packaging (if applicable). I realize this is an expense and a hassle but we’re luckier than other industries. What if we were making wooden blocks? How and where could you place this information? At least we’re set up to handle labeling requirements.

Manufacturers must label so they can determine:

  1. Location of manufacture.
  2. Date of production
  3. Cohort information (none if applicable)
  4. Batch or lot number, however you track a production run.

Consumers should be able to determine:

  1. The manufacturer as we define it (legal definition)
  2. Location of manufacture
  3. Date of production
  4. Cohort information (none if applicable)
  5. Batch or lot number, however you track a production run.

The sticking point with manufacturers (meaning the legal definition) is listing the contractor. A related protest from manufacturers was being required to list the contractor on the General Conformity Certificate (GCC) but the Consumer Protection Safety Commission backed down on that pretty quickly. You do have to have some kind of organized internal reference numbering or abbreviation system to track contractors but you don’t have to list them by name on the GCC. I imagine but cannot confirm that it won’t be a big battle to get the same allowance made for the labeling requirement. In other words, while it’s not official, I’m going to spend my time worrying about other things.

There’s two key problems for small producers.
1. Ordering labels -we have minimums.
2. Creating a control system for batch or lot numbers.

I think #2 is the easiest to tackle. If you’re using style numbers properly (review pgs 58-61 in the book), just add another set of digits separated with a hyphen. The problem is one of replication though because your UPC code will be different as those include color codes and your batch could include several color ways and may not be a batch according to the CPSC definition (below). Replication is annoying but it’s no big deal. If you’re using a software program like Style File to manage your production, this capability is already built in. Additionally you can track by cut or fabric lots.

Rather than amending the style number with another set of digits, your other option is to create a separate database to track batches and assign unique numbers to each. You’d need fields for style number and all that rot that comprises the SKU. One boon to everyone who works with you, is we’ll get you out of the habit of naming your styles once and for all. Yeah! Like I said, one positive thing about the law is that it will force the smallest of producers to adopt better management practices that are used in the garment industry.

There is one problem with #4 Batch numbers because we really don’t know what a “batch” is. I mean, we know what we mean it to mean but we can’t assume the CPSC shares our definition. This is something that will have to be clarified so I’ll remember to ask about this. For us, a batch means one production run, typically everything cut from a given marker of one style. A production run usually includes several colorways all cut at the same time. In other words, it is typical that the fabrics in the cut will not be exactly the same testing-wise. For all we know, the CPSC thinks one batch means items are identical to each other, as though we were making a bunch of Legos or something. Each color of Lego would be a batch but we don’t work like this. This could mean that to them, one of our batches is actually three according to their definition.

Does it go without saying that all of this batching stuff flies in the face of lean manufacturing? If you’re as lean as an operation like Fit Couture, all your batches are comprised of one unit. This poses a real problem for people making the lean transition.

Since we have to track batches or lots and we run really small quantities, this just isn’t possible to do the way we have been. Who can afford to order separate labels for each batch? Even if we could, there would be a lot of waste considering the order minimums of labels. I think there’s two options. One is to order labels as we have been (putting the required text on the back of the care label) and add the batch # manually with an indelible ink pen. I don’t think this is a practical solution for anyone but the tiniest of producers. It’ll look tacky and we like things to look neat and professional don’t we?

Perhaps another other option is to print your own from a desktop laser printer. When I went to SPESA, I found a supplier for this kind of thing, Label It. He’s not the only one of course but I did compare prices on consumables and different printing solutions that seemed pretty reasonable. You can get a dedicated printer for it (most commonly used for bar coding) with a special kind of laundry ink that won’t wash out. He also sells software ($200) to set up the labels but I’d imagine anyone halfway handy with a word processing program could figure that out. The sheet fed consumables are perforated so you can tear them apart. I’m not wild on the consumables, it’s that stiff interfacing looking stuff. I didn’t see these products specifically listed on his site but I know he has them and I got a little catalog and price list when I was there. The price list is here (xls).

One last obvious requirement is you can’t advertise that your product meets CPSC standards unless it really does. Odd that they have to mention that.

Here’s the section of the law pertaining to this section:

(a) IN GENERAL.—Section 14(a) (15 U.S.C. 2063(a)), as amended by section 102 of this Act, is further amended by adding at the end the following:
(5) Effective 1 year after the date of enactment of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the manufacturer of a children’s product shall place permanent, distinguishing marks on the product and its packaging, to the extent practicable, that will enable—
(A) the manufacturer to ascertain the location and date of production of the product, cohort information (including the batch, run number, or other identifying characteristic), and any other information determined by the manufacturer to facilitate ascertaining the specific source of the product by reference to those marks; and
(B) the ultimate purchaser to ascertain the manufacturer or private labeler, location and date of production of the product, and cohort information (including the batch, run number, or other identifying characteristic).’’.

(b) LABEL INFORMATION.—Section 14(c) (15 U.S.C. 2063(c)) is amended by redesignating paragraphs (2) and (3) as paragraphs (3) and (4) and by inserting after paragraph (1) the following:
(2) The cohort information (including the batch, run number, or other identifying characteristic) of the product.’’.

Section 14 (15 U.S.C. 2063) is further amended by adding at the end the following:
(d) REQUIREMENT FOR ADVERTISEMENTS.—No advertisement for a consumer product or label or packaging of such product may contain a reference to a consumer product safety rule or a voluntary consumer product safety standard unless such product conforms with the applicable safety requirements of such rule or standard.

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  1. sarah says:

    My items are all 1 of a kind. Some are in small stores and some are sold through etsy, like many of us. My labels were current featuring an RN number that could establish my manufacture information, and that the items were made in the US of imported fabrics. I purposely didn’t say “made in the USA” because of the misrepresentation that would present that my fabrics came from the US as well. How much more specific does this have to be?

    I don’t have batch numbers since my records can trace each specific item since they are all different.

    How on earth will I adhere to this?? I know I am not alone. We are all suffering and confused. I can’t imagine printing production information on each label. I assumed if that was necessary in the event of a lawsuit or problem it could be traced through my rn number.

    Additionally, I wonder what kind of risk fabric in itself could pose? I wash all my fabrics twice before my garments are made. There is always a fear that someone is allergic to the detergent or an environmental thing that came in contact with it. In these instances I assumed the customer could re-wash the item. In case formaldehyde the like were incorporated into the fabrics prior to my getting them to stiffen/unwrinkle them it was my understanding it would wash out.

    I purposely don’t use any decorative elements other than the zippers because my items are geared towards kids that stick everything in their mouth (which I was assured by the manufacturer are lead safe.) So what risk do the fabrics then pose? Other than the inherent flammability, but I don’t make sleepwear for that reason.

    As for this certificate, just wow. I only buy from wholesalers once in a blue moon since I don’t require a lot of each fabric since my customers WANT them to be different. I buy closeouts and clearance from wholesalers. Sometimes, I need to buy from retailers to get the fabric my customers want in a short time frame. Will this type of business even be possible?

    If anyone else who has a similar business plan has resolved any of these issues please let me know.

  2. Ashley says:

    This would cause a problem for my products as well. I make and sell hair bows. I don’t think my customers would like a label on their bow with all that info. This law is just getting more and more ridiculous. I understand wanting the lead to be low in the products, but I think there is got to be a better way of going about this.

  3. This is crazy – I crochet clown rattles and santa claus slippers for children. How in the world am I supposed to be able to comply with any of this? I’m a small business owner that creates quality products and also promotes other crafters. These new laws will put many American businesses out of business. The real focus should be on making stricter import laws – most of this has been caused by faulty sub-standard oriental imports that have been stealing American craft patterns and then re-producing sub-standard products. They then sell them to Americans at prices that are cheaper than crafters can buy our supplies for. Why are they penalizing Americans for their lack of controlling import standards? This IS the Government’s fault for lowering the import standards that put quality American made products out of business to begin with. Are they trying to shut all American businesses down? Sure sounds like it to me.

  4. The CPSIA should let the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines/regulations for labeling products guide these new labeling requirements. Labeling a product is a complicated business that requires product specific engineering; many of these details have been confronted already by the FTC. After all, you wouldn’t like a tag in your sock, would you? Neither would a baby – but with the new CPSIA labeling requirements socks for kids will have tags. The FTC has an allowance built in for “hosiery”, as well as many other product specific regulations and the CPSIA should do the same.

  5. Can someone help clarify for me the meaning of “cohort” in this context? I am the legal definition of manufacturer, I believe (well, I am in other contexts). Is the cohort the mill I contract in North Carolina to do the actual knitting of my product? Or maybe the cohorts are the farms where the cotton is grown? Or, am I way off here?

  6. Chad says:

    I am unclear with regard to the label requirements for embellished product. I contract manufacturing in Asia for imprintable children’s garments. It will not be a problem to have the required information included on those care labels. However, we screenprint & embroider the garments in house in runs of 48 pieces per design. Are we required to label each of those print runs with date of embellishment or is the requirement only for the date of manufacture of the garment itself?

  7. Kathleen says:

    I am unclear with regard to the label requirements for embellished product… Are we required to label each of those print runs with date of embellishment or is the requirement only for the date of manufacture of the garment itself?

    No doubt because no law could possibly be so insane to require you to have a separate label for each of those 48 piece lots -but it does! You need a different label per “batch” (lot or cut as we call it).

  8. Thank you for breaking it down so perfectly. This is certainly going to be a challenge… especially for jewelry. I wonder how expensive it will be to use hand stamped sterling silver tags? ugh

  9. Louisa says:

    Is there any update as to whether or not the CPSIA is still requiring all clothing be tested? I thought I just read on a link of the smart mama that fabric without paint doesn’t need to be tested under “table B”. There are so many new developments that I think the CPSIA requirements are being reshaped as we speak. I make swimwear for women and children. I may cut one style of swimwear from 15 different colors and fabric types. And then I may use those same 15 fabrics in 30 different styles, all cut and sewn in the same US facility at the same time. It makes more sense, for clothing manufacturers, to have to just test the lot of fabric(s) that will be used throughout the season.
    Also, what about all the swimsuits I’ve manufactured in season’s past?
    I am also confused (by reading various articles from different websites with different dates) if at this moment, 2-16-09, I need some sort of certificate or lab results in order for the stores that I’ve sold my swimwear to be able to legally sell my swimwear?
    First off, I was not aware that fabric printers were using lead in the printing process. I can see if it is some sort of painted toy or jewelry, but I’ve never heard of clothing/fabric of clothing containing lead. Does anyone know if there has been an instance in which a child’s clothing had lead in the fabric?

  10. Chad says:

    As of Jan 30, the CPSC issued a stay on testing for one year: “Significant to makers of children’s products, the vote by the Commission provides limited relief from the testing and certification requirements which go into effect on February 10, 2009 for new total lead content limits (600 ppm), phthalates limits for certain products (1000 ppm), and mandatory toy standards, among other things. Manufacturers and importers – large and small – of children’s products will not need to test or certify to these new requirements, but will need to meet the lead and phthalates limits, mandatory toy standards and other requirements. ”

    If I read this correctly, you aren’t required to have certification of testing, but you are required to meet the standards of the CPSIA.

    As for product you manufactured before Feb 10, the only thing that is retroactive in the CPSIA is lead content. As long as you didn’t have lead beyond the 600ppm in your children’s product, you’re good to go.

    Regarding lead in the printing process, I don’t know of any print process that uses products containing lead. Nor do I know of lead in fabric. The lead is typically an issue with snaps, zippers, etc.
    The print process is affected by the phthalate limitations written into the CPSIA. Most of the inks screenprinters have used up to now contain phthalates.

    Hope this helps clear it up.

  11. Amy says:

    Kathleen, again THANK YOU for all you do and please try to join us Sunday, Feb 22 at 8 pm on http://www.blockheadradiolive.com for our “thank you” party! We are showing our thanks to some people who have worked OVER AND BEYOND to fight CPSIA…and you are one of those people! PLEASE join us, and invite anyone you’d like! We’ll have some online chat, (sign up ahead of time to get your user name to make it easier) and listen to some tunes. It is of course BYOB….but if we all drink together while online…it still counts as a party right? :)

    Come on down, have fun and share the love! We need a break from all this and to appreciate how hard everyone has worked! :)

    Thanks again!

  12. Lisa V says:

    shoot! i did this wrong, of course! i made one batch number for EVERYTHING in my first run of 1 product in several colorways. maybe my stock will be gone by august x x fingers crossed.

  13. Anna H says:

    Does “location of manufature” mean actual and physical address or city and state ? I too am a small crafter of girl’s clothing. I produce out of my home and do several arts festivals and sell on etsy. I have an issue with putting my home address on a label…

  14. “I have an issue with putting my home address on a label”

    That makes no sense – a business that hides their location or contact information is cutting their own throat. Do brick & mortar businesses hide their information? No, if they did they’d have no business. I have absolutely no probem with plastering my company information on products, could get you orders just from the information being there. If you don’t want to give your home address out – then you need to pay the extra for building to work from.

    Also just a tip for those with web sites – if your location and contact information is not on your site, I will never do business with you. That is scammer tactic, not a real business tactic.

  15. Anna H says:

    Ralyn–In today’s hi-tech information free society any information can be acquired at any time. For example, you use a p.o. box as an address on your website–I assume you simply don’t want to use your home address out of which you work on W. Edwards St.–Google Earth is amazing! You too are a cautious individual since you distrust websites without addresses. I am also a very private person who gives out personal information sparingly. I hope to some day be big enough to have a building to work out of and employ American women to do all my sewing, until then I send out the question again. If I provide a city, state, phone number and email address on my label, would that be considered enough information to get in touch with me — the manufacturer–without having to provide a physical address?

    Also I have a tip for all the small home producers like me who can’t afford high volume label printing. There are fabric sheets that you can run through a laser printer and can purchase at a quilting or craft store. Create your labels as you would mailing labels — print and cut. I get 30 out of one sheet. They probably will not last the lifetime of the article, but many consumers cut the labels out of kids clothing anyway. My kids can’t stand labels on their necks or sides!

  16. Kathleen says:

    Anna, you don’t need an address on the label. By location, they mean country of origin, an item that is already required (and few comply with) on the care label. You will have to list your address on the GCC.

  17. Anna H – You assumptions are totally incorrect and so is your Google search. On most of my sites you’ll also see my street address and I live in New Boston, not Springfield. Our town is tiny and we do not have mail delivery here – The entire town has PO boxes for addresses.

    Under The Rainbow
    PO Box 277
    403 4th St
    New Boston, IL 61272

    Does that make you more happy? I have no problem with broadcastin my information – it’s public record and poses no risk at all. I’m also a Pre-Paid Legal Services Consultant that has been trained in identity theft – people that are afraid of posting it are mis-informed about it being a risk since anybody that really wants it can obtain it freely.

  18. Anna H says:

    Thank you for the answer to my question Kathleen. I appreciate everything you are doing in helping small business owners like myself decipher all this!

  19. Just like to note that my street address WAS on my site, I was going to go update it after her post but had no need to do so as the street address was already there, so have no idea where Anna was looking. Here is the copy from my contact page:

    “This site was built for crafters and craft shoppers. Your comments and feedback help us to improve the site. Our business depends on your satisfaction, so please let us know what you think.

    Phone: 217-492-1163

    Address: PO Box 277
    403 4th Street
    New Boston, IL 61272”

  20. Sarah says:

    Ralyn, some of us who work out of our homes do not provide our addresses on our websites, business materials, etc., because it cuts down (actually, prevents entirely) on people just showing up on our doorsteps. I’m not worried that people will find out where I live – that’s public information. But I don’t know how many phone calls I’ve received from people calling because they couldn’t find my location on the website and they thought they’d swing by the “store” some time while they were out. Because no matter how much I put “I work out of my home” or “by appointment only” or whatever, my experience has been that some people will just ignore all that and stop by at their leisure anyway. If they have to call or email for an address, that gives me a chance to explain that I see people by appointment, I’m very flexible, but I need to know when they’re coming. (Not only so I can be sure to be home, but so I can be sure to have the door monitor on, and so that I can be sure that everybody in our household is dressed.)

    It’s not a matter of “paying extra to have a building,” either. I work from my home by choice, not because i can’t afford to move out. I can’t imagine dragging kids (and homeschool supplies, and art stuff, and toys, and movies, and stuffed animals, and diapers, and snacks) out of the house to an office or workspace in a different building every day just so that I don’t lose the few customers who care that I don’t have my address listed on my website.

  21. Sarah: actually who you are and contact number is usually good enough for me. But sites that don’t have any way to contact them other than a form that hides contact information or if they don’t tell me who they are, I’ll leave. And I see a lot of WAHMs hiding that information because they falsely think it puts them at risk. Many of my first time customers actually call me before they place an order. I hear them say they wanted to make sure I was a real person all the time – and I do have my information posted. So it’s not just me, people are leery because of all the scammers out there.

  22. Kathleen says:

    We’re starting to veer off course a bit, the topic is info for the tracking label, namely country of origin. Not that I don’t have my own opinion as to what wahms should include on their site but that’s another topic altogether.

  23. Chad says:

    Not sure if everyone is already aware of this, but last week the CPS Commission voted on a petition to stay the tracking label requirements of the CPSIA. The stay was defeated by a tie vote. You can read the particulars here: http://www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/ballot/ballot09/tracklabelstay.pdf

    I think the dissenting commissioner’s opinion is worth reading for those of us who are weary & confused by the legislation. He basically says that although tracking label requirements will be burdensome for many businesses, as long as a business is making an honest attempt to comply with the requirements there will be no issues…at least in the interim as they iron out the details of the law’s enforcement.
    I interpret that as meaning that there won’t be any heavy handed enforcement, especially when it comes to products that are obviously not posing a threat to children’s health.

  24. Kathleen says:

    Hi Chad, I’ve been too depressed to mention it. I intended to with my next entry in the tracking label compliance series.

  25. Mary says:

    Chad, I too have a line of children t-shirt that I screen print and embroidery. I would like to know how you plan on labeling your t’s. I was thinking of just screenprinting transfers with the info.

  26. Michelle says:

    Kathleen, thank you so much for this post! I am still thoroughly confused about how I am going to comply with this law, seeing that I make items on an individual basis. I guess I just need to try to make my own labels so that I can keep altering the info. I am considering using a custom stamp with most of the info on it and some of those ‘rotating number’ type stamps to do the changing batch numbers and date of manufacture.

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