CPSIA: Another tracking label update

As some of you already know, the CPSC posted a Statement of Policy (pdf) which includes Commissioner comments that outline the interpretation of the tracking label requirement as well as an updated FAQ. Perhaps surprisingly, many decisions are left in the manufacturer’s best judgment. Likewise, the CPSC mentions an “education period” although compliance is expected if it comes to a potential recall. Above all, it seems apparent the Commission does not intend to penalize manufacturers who have erroneously interpreted the guidelines provided any errors or omissions were made in good faith. That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook just because you’re small. Tenenbaum said specifically:

…small volume manufacturers and crafters have expressed concern that they cannot feasibly comply with the statute because their production patterns do not lend themselves to lot, batch, and run labeling systems. To this end, the Commission agrees that small volume manufacturers or crafters need not create a labeling system incorporating the use of lot, batch, or run numbers so long as such manufacturers can keep adequate records of the components used in their products. The goal of the labeling statute is to enable manufacturers and consumers alike to ascertain pertinent information about a children’s product in the event of a recall, not to implement a rigid and uniform labeling standard that applies to both small and large manufacturers in the same way. In developing and implementing a tracking label system, small volume manufacturers and crafters should also consider the business and recordkeeping practices of their peers.

Not to knock anyone over the head with it but again, professional means better, not bigger.

Moving on, until you have time to go through the policy and FAQ, here’s a cheat sheet:

Fiber content: Duplicate information is not required on the tracking label. If you are already complying with the FTC labeling requirements to list fiber content, this doesn’t also have to be on the tracking label. I was surprised to see mention of this because nothing I read in the tracking label section 103 said you had to so I wasn’t aware that people thought differently.

Location: CPSC confirms location disclosure is limited to city, state and nation of origin. The caveat being that a manufacturer must be able to disclose the specific geographical source of the product’s making. I realize this may represent difficulties for some who are sourcing commodities but you’ll have to find a supplier who can provide greater transparency. Again, you will need to have on file, in your batch information, the specific contact information for your production source but you don’t have to list them on your tracking label. Again, the CPSC realizes it may take time to come into compliance but you need to make a good faith effort.

Date of production: Our pleas have been heard, kind of. A date range (undefined) is acceptable.

Cohort information: Again, cohort is your contractor but there still remains ambiguity on the matter. In his statement, Commissioner Moore said Congress gave companies flexibility to provide either the manufacturer (you) or private labeler (importer, if that’s you, and manufacturer must comply with the tracking label requirement) so that a company would not have to identify specific factory information. Then his statement digresses to a discussion of location, sidestepping the controversy of listing one’s cohort directly. Who knows what the final answer is but one can take refuge in that he also said manufacturers will not be penalized if they do not include this information as of August 14.

What is exempt from the tracking label: The CPSC specifically defined a few circumstances where it may not be practical to label the package or the product such as:

  • If the product is too small.
  • If it is impossible to mark the material permanently (hair ornaments etc).
  • If the mark would adversely affect product aesthetics.
  • If it is a paired item and can be sold singularly, both items of the set must be labeled. If it is a paired item not sold singularly, only one item must be marked (shoes).
  • Socks are exempt.

Lot or batch numbers:
Depending on your record keeping practices (see links at close), you may not need them. That does not mean you do not need to keep track internally, only that you need not assign a batch or lot number and print it on a label if your record keeping practices are such that you can definitively identify the origin of the lot and all the components of it if called to do so in the event of an inquiry, investigation or recall. The FAQ says “If someone handed you one of your products sold last year, what would you be able to tell them about the materials used?”

Again, this is the word from the CPSC’s Policy Statement. Depending on who you sell to, your mileage may vary. I have no word at this time what any given retailer is requiring of their vendors.

Here is the revised example of what your tracking label must include:

  • Mfg by: RN 110706 OR Mfg by <your name>, RN 119786
  • Made in City, State, Nation of origin
  • August-September 2009 (date the lot is completed)
  • Cohort code if applicable (of your designation)

For more information (CPSC)
Statement of Policy
FAQ: New Tracking Label (Section 103)
If you make handcrafted items from home

Related entries:
What is a batch?
What is a cutter’s must?
What is a sketch sheet
What is a Bill of Materials (BOM)
What is a cutting ticket
What is a tech pack?
How to move up to another level
CPSIA and tracking label requirements
CPSIA: Printable labels for August requirements
CPSIA: Tracking labels update

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  1. Becky says:

    Kathleen, do you still feel confident about the computer printed labels you tested a few weeks ago? Also, did you use any special type of ink cartridge to print them and what was the fabric you used. This seems to be the best solution for us one of a kind manufacturers. If they hold up to the testing that is. Being one that is barely starting out, I want to be sure I am doing things correctly from the beginning. My next concern will be the testing of the snaps, zippers, buttons, etc. that I will be using. I have no idea how I will handle that hurdle yet. Your blog has been a huge resource for me. I take each morning doing research and educating myself, before I start my sewing day. So glad I found you.

  2. Esther says:

    One of the big problems with the tracking labels is the disclosure of the city, state, country rule, IMO. Not a problem if you manufacture in say, Los Angeles. But if you manufacture in Des Moines, IA (hypothetical) and it is a fantastic small manufacturer with competitive prices, do you really want to share that info. It would be easy for a competitor to track that down. The manufacturing location goes above and beyond what the FTC requires. Would disclosing this really help in recall effectiveness? I doubt it as most manufacturing companies can tell you without even looking at paperwork where something was manufactured.

  3. Wacky Hermit says:

    I’m really hung up on this “adversely affect product aesthetics” thing.

    First off, aesthetic judgments are notoriously subjective. If there actually turns out to be a way to attach a label to hand crocheted baby booties and *I* just don’t like how it looks, but CPSC doesn’t care how it looks, how’s that going to play out? What if I can figure out a way (e.g. sewing a label on by hand, with stitching invisible from the outside) but it isn’t practical, and the way that is practical to attach the label (e.g. sewing a label on by machine, with stitching visible from the outside) in my opinion mars the texture? Will my aesthetic opinion hold up in court?

    Second, what do you do if the step at which you have to attach the label comes before you can determine with any specificity the date of final assembly which is supposed to be on the label?

    Third, is a hand crocheted baby bootie that looks like a shoe a sock or a shoe? I applied for an RN number and was denied because they thought my booties were shoes. But they’re worn like socks (i.e. not as a street shoe, by non-walking babies) even though they look like shoes.

    Not that I expect Kathleen to personally provide definitive answers to these questions, of course. Just throwing them out into the ether.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Another visitor posted a great comment that answers a lot of that here but I’ll go ahead and quote Marlene here too. She said:

    I found some printable labels at Rogeneration. They also go by Rogen Studio. You can get on their website and check out what they have. They were nice enough to send me some samples and I was able to try them out. They offer labels for both inkjet and laser and have different sizes available. Please note that I have an inkjet printer that uses Epson No. 68 high capacity black ink. ” Because of the ink’s instant drying, all pigment formulation, prints are smudge, fade and water resistant, whether you create single or double sided prints.”

    This was my experience:
    Remar – most inexpensive and you get what you pay for.

    Econo- Although I have an inkjet printer, I much preferred the laser labels. They were a little thicker and I am printing on both sides. I’m printing all my info on one side and adding the cpsc info on the back. (This may not work for all injet printers). They also have a pearl coated label that I liked best, but after printing on it, you could hardly read the info. and if my memory serves me, it was much more expensive.

    The labels come in sheets that are perforated and quite easy to use. There are 50,000 labels per case. Prices vary by size and quality.

    I made a sample, printed both sides, and washed and dried it and it came out fine.

    Esther: agreed. But at least they backed off someone being required to list their contractor which would make sourcing by competing interests really easy. kwim? Fwiw, I’ve found that many DEs can’t find a contractor in their own town that is literally five blocks from them. That is a true story btw. Few contractors have yellow page listings or are even listed in the right category.

    WH: Is there anything to like about it? I get in trouble for saying this with other parties much more important and powerful than me but I think a beefed up and more inclusive RN system would be a move in the right direction provided notices were sent to manufacturers on matters that affected them -before it became an issue. I’d re-apply if I were you, these are probably more like socks, or maybe slippers. What’s the rule on slippers?

  5. Kathleen says:

    Forgot to mention: I have a friend who bought a case of labels, she doesn’t need that many. She’s looking to sell 30 sheet lots (or more) to someone else who might be interested in selling smaller quantities. If anyone is interested in doing something like this, please contact me. Phone is good, 575-525-1577.

  6. Wacky Hermit says:

    Thanks Kathleen, you’re great! I did reapply for the RN number explaining that the booties were more like socks, but that was months ago and I haven’t heard back from them at all, and now it’s too late; the third party testing provisions are doing in my bootie business. So I suppose my tracking label concerns are purely academic. I guess I’m still hoping that at the last minute CPSC will rule that XRF testing works for textiles and doesn’t have to be done in a lab.

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