New Product Safety Regulations That Affect ALL Manufacturers

UPDATE: Be sure to also see this newer article on CPSIA Regulations.

This is extremely urgent, a must read.

In the forum Marnie oh so casually mentioned that new regulations governing the labeling and certification of many classes of consumer goods (including apparel) sold in the United States will go into effect November 13. This applies to all manufacturers, importers and private labellers. When she posted it yesterday afternoon, we weren’t too concerned, that affects other guys right? Wrong. Unfortunately, some of these regulations are quite onerous and the penalties are stiff. Alex Russel (Marnie’s partner, who attended the seminar with her) says Marnie didn’t emphasize the severity and stringency of the rules as these changes have been “flying under the radar”. In this guest entry, Alex will tell us more about it. But first an introduction.

Alex Russel (and Marnie Sohn) are launching a line of lingerie for busty women in the new year called Chere Gruyere Inc. Handily for us, Alex -after 8 years of working in a bank, including writing procedure manuals- has the ability to understand and interpret confusing bureaucratese.

Importers and Private Labels Take Effect November 13th
I’m going to tell you a secret. Starting next Wednesday, November 13th, if you are a manufacturer, importer or private labeler, and you sell ANY products in the United States, you will face some stringent new product safety regulations. Interestingly, no one seems to know anything about this So, what exactly am I talking about?

Well, on August 14th, 2008, Congress passed the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (pdf) into law. All through the legislative debate, the act appeared to significantly strengthen the safety regulations specifically for children’s products. Nothing was said regarding general consumer products targeted at adults. But when the act was passed, tucked away in section 102 was a regulatory certification requirement that applies to ANY manufacturer, importer or private labeler of ANY consumer product. The act specified that the new regulations take effect in 90 days. Since nobody mentioned this during the debates, it took a lot of people by surprise. And since the section of the act that contains the new regulations is misleadingly named, this has added to the confusion. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (hereafter CPSC) has been scrambling to create an operational framework amid the chaos that currently reigns.

Confused? Don’t worry, everyone else is too. But don’t panic, it’s not the end of the world. Fortunately, I was able to attend a workshop hosted by the Canadian Apparel Federation who got wind of this. But let me qualify my advice by saying this: it is what we know right now. This is all up in the air, the CPSC was still taking Requests for Comments on section 102 last week. They are scrambling to get it together. The good news is that they recognize the short time frame is not workable, and are not going to start strict enforcement on the 13th. That doesn’t mean you are absolved of the responsibility to do anything but if you take a reasonable and good-faith attempt to conform, they will cut you slack if you get caught. But if you take the ostrich approach and stick your head in the sand, eventually they will bite you.

So what is this new regulatory requirement?

Every manufacturer, importer or private labeler of a product that is subject to a product safety rule or similar rule, ban, standard, or regulation, must now furnish a General Conformity Certificate (FAQ and sample in pdf) to the downstream distributor or retailer of the product, included with each shipment. The General Conformity Certificate requires nine specific pieces of information:

  1. Identification of the product covered by the certificate
  2. Specification of each CPSC product safety regulation being certified
  3. Identification of the foreign or domestic manufacturer certifying compliance of the product.
  4. Identification of the U.S. Importer certifying compliance of the product (if any)
  5. Identification of private labeler certifying compliance of the product (if any)
  6. Contact information for the individual maintaining the test results
  7. Date and place where this product was manufactured
  8. Date and place where this product was tested for compliance with the regulations cited above.
  9. Identification of of any third-party laboratory on whose testing the certificate depends.

Yikes! Well, lets take a look at some of the issues around the General Conformity Certificate, safety regulations and required testing. First you should see the FAQ and sample certificate (pdf) if you haven’t already.

Do I have to include a certificate with every shipment?

Yes, you do. This can be a simple as a photocopy included with the other waypapers. In fact, it was recommended that you could add the certificate as a part of the waybill sheet itself. CPSC has also allowed for electronic versions to be used. You can provide a unique identifier and URL with each shipment that allows access to an electronic version of the document stored on a web server. The CPSC site has some basics, but I can provide further details (including info on password protecting the info) in discussion.

Hold on! The General Conformity Certificate has some proprietary information on it! I don’t want my downstream customers to see my upstream suppliers, what can I do?

This is a bit confusing, but there is a way around it. You are required to furnish the certificate to not only to the downstream receiver included with the shipment, but also to the CPSC on request. So, the advice I received was to alter the copy provided to the downstream receiver, redacting (legalese for removing) the proprietary information and placing a note in its place indicating what you have done. Keep a complete non redacted version of the certificate on file so that it can be furnished to the CPSC on request. The information provided to the CPSC is considered confidential under the act.

What about item 2 on the certificate. What are these regulations? Are they new?

No, these are the same regulations that have always existed for consumer products. The only change is, now you have to issue the certificate to attest that your product conforms. Notwithstanding the major changes specifically for children’s products (below), there are no big changes to the existing rules and regulations for general products. For apparel, this is mainly the Fabric Flammability Act, but don’t forget that the Federal Hazardous Substances Act may cover adhesives, resins, chemical dyes, lead content and others. If your product conforms to today’s product safety regulations, you should be fine on November 13th, you’ll just need a certificate to prove it. See the full list of acts, rules, bans, standards and regulations.

What about testing? Do I need to get expensive third-party lab tests?

Well, unless you manufacture children’s products, you are not specifically required to have third-party laboratory testing done. But hang on… The General Conformity Certification needs to be based on “a test of each product or upon a reasonable testing program” that provides a reasonable assurance that the product meets the standards, and is stringent enough to detect variations that would cause the product to fail. And lets face it, a piece of fabric and a Bic lighter do not make a “reasonable” flammability test. That leads to our next question.

My supplier has already tested the product, can I use their results?

Yes, sort of, but…not a promising start to this answer, sorry. If you are an importer or private labeler dealing with a completed product, then yes, you can (don’t forget the “but”). If you are a manufacturer dealing with a raw material, then this probably applies too, but that’s not as clear. The CPSC says that an importer can certify based on the tests conducted by the foreign manufacturer, provided:

  • a copy of the test records is in English
  • the copy of the test records is in the United States
  • the importer is a resident of the US or has a resident agent

These records are required to be kept for three years. That’s pretty straightforward but there is a catch. You are absolutely responsible for the contents of your General Conformity Certificate. If your supplier provides incorrect or false test data, and your product does not conform to the regulations, you are not protected. Penalties include imprisonment for up to 5 years and fines up to $15,000,000. I don’t mean to scare you, but you need to be sure you know who you are dealing with. It comes down to trust with your suppliers. But hey, if you are suspicious, send a few random samples to a local lab to check up on them. It will be cheaper than comprehensive regular lab testing but you’ll have peace of mind. The key here is the word “reasonable”. As long as you make a reasonable attempt to ensure the product conforms, you should be OK.

I talked to my supplier/friend/manufacturer and they told me these regulations don’t apply to me/them. What’s up?

They’re probably victims of the chaos and confusion that swirls around this issue. Here’s the deal: If you make any sort of end-product, destined for consumption by regular people, this applies to you.

There are other significant changes to product safety regulations for children’s products, what about those?

I know a lot of FI readers deal with children’s products, and I must apologize to you. As I do not, I don’t have much detail about those new regulations beyond the General Conformity Certificate which applies equally to children’s products. I can tell you there are big changes, particularly with lead content, phthalates, third-party testing requirements, and mandatory tracking labels. These are all major issues, and I urge you not to ignore them. We are currently discussing these here in the forum.

Are these politicians crazy?

Yes, but you knew that already.

There are lots of details to these new regulations and I’m sure there are lots of questions. Marnie and I have just attended the workshop and we’ll do our best to answer any questions in the forums.

Just remember those important words from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: DON’T PANIC! :)

I noticed your (KF’s) comments regarding the budgetary/enforcement side of the issue, and this was addressed in the workshop we attended. According the the speakers, the CPSC has received significant budgetary increases. One of them indicated that the number of inspectors was going to rise. There are currently 30 CSPC enforcement officers, up from 8 last year. Who knows how many there will be next year. The research I did after the seminar shows that they were anticipating an approximate 30% increase in the budget from now until 2013. This is all a knee jerk reaction to the rash of product recalls in 2007, and I think they intend to follow through on this one. Regardless of likelihood of future increases, they got an approx $10 million increase in 2008 over 2007.

AMENDED 11/13/08: Also be sure to see this newer article on CPSIA Regulations and read the comments since many are asking questions that may be answered over there. Thanks.

Related in the forum:
The War Room: CPSIA & Consumer Safety. This is a very active section with nearly 60 different threads and over 1,000 postings. Open to the public.

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  1. Mark says:

    Regarding the proprietary information recommendation – “leave off-but keep on file”. I haven’t seen this allowance in any other documentation. Do you have references that can support taking this course of action?


  2. Alex Russel says:

    This advice was provided verbally during the seminar, by Gerald Horn, and international trade lawyer with Sandler, Travis & Rosenburg, P.A. in New York. He was one of the speakers.

  3. Alex Russel says:

    My apologies are in order, I should have provided more details of the speakers at the seminar we attended. The CAF hosted the event, but the speakers were from Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, P.A., They handle international trade and business practice issues. The speakers were: Lauren V. Perez, Vice President of Regulatory Matters (see her bio: and Gerald Horn, a trade lawyer (see his:

    Unless I’ve qualified my statements by saying something like “I think…”, or have referenced an alternate source, this is the source of the information.

    Again, my apologies.

  4. CollinsCho says:

    I’m just curious about that the general conformity certificate should be submitted from adult’s goods as well. The HR4040 is focused on kid’s goods(under 12 years) only. Please kindly add your thoughs.

  5. Kathleen says:

    I’m just curious about that the general conformity certificate should be submitted from adult’s goods as well. The HR4040 is focused on kid’s goods(under 12 years) only. Please kindly add your thoughs.

    We’re sorting out the minutia of what this means here. We’ve got 39 comments so far. Like I keep telling people, the forum is the most active side of this site :).

    So does this mean if I make one thing, for one person, for money, that this law applies? I guess one could call this the esty question.

    Helen, we’re still sorting this out (I think you have access to the forum so you might want to look for discussion there). In the short term, it appears to apply to anyone and everyone. The issue with etsy and ebay is those users tend to ignore whichever laws and regulations they find inconvenient (witness the plethora of etsy California residents producing without a license and who could lose everything). What surprises me is that commissions have not attempted to enforce regulations via ebay, etsy and even craigslist. Witness the myriad of unlicensed “sewing contractors” soliciting business in CA via craigslist.

  6. Re:
    “Every manufacturer, importer or private labeler of a product that is subject to a product safety rule or similar rule, ban, standard, or regulation, must now furnish a General Conformity Certificate (FAQ and sample in pdf) to the downstream distributor or retailer of the product, included with each shipment. ”

    I’m the crafter/manufacturer who purchased my yarns and other supplies from a major retailer. It looks like they would be required to have the certificate. I sell my ‘manufactured’ (knit) items directly to the public either online, to personal friends/family or at craft fairs.

    From what I perceive from the above, I only have to provide a General Conformity Certificate if I wholesale my ‘manufactured’ items to either a distributor or other retailer. It needs to address the person who is the ‘manufacturer’ and the ‘retailer’ all in one.

  7. Kathleen says:

    I’m the crafter/manufacturer who purchased my yarns and other supplies from a major retailer. It looks like they would be required to have the certificate.

    Not so fast…as I said over here,

    …Since the legislation only targets finished products, fabrics etc are not tested or certified as safe before entering the country so there is no way to be certain products are compliant just because they were sewn here.

    In other words, welcome to the grey area! It is precisely these grey areas that ARE the problem. This is why we’re upset. Yeah, technically, interpreting it in the terms you have, you’re right. The problem is, when you dig through it all, you’re not covered.

  8. kathleen says:

    but, does this apply to works one considers one of a kind pieces of art, wearable or not

    If individuals were legally allowed to define themselves as “artists” and thus be exempt, we wouldn’t be having this problem because everybody would become an artist overnight. So no, like it or hate it, unless your usual business is making custom products to order for an individual, you are a manufacturer. This is a legal definition, it’s not something one gets to decide for themselves. If customers can buy ready made products from you, you are a manufacturer even if you’ve only made one of that particular item. “Manufacturer” is not defined by huge enterprises putting out thousands of identical items. I realize that what you perceive manufacturing to be does not mesh with your self image because you think it’s really icky and corporate and that’s not you, but it’s not something that you get to decide legally.

    Rationally think about it. Why would a one of a kind item be exempt? People are only going to buy and use the one of what ever it is anyway so for their purposes, it’s “one of a kind” and if something is liable to kill you (obviously not likely but this is the law), it won’t be because they’re not wearing a piece of art. No matter how shoddy or divine the design, whatever went into can kill you. Theoretically, as the govt claims anyway. The chemical composition of an item can’t distinguish “art” from schlock so the law doesn’t care if it’s “art” or not. Besides, who decides it’s art? You want the government to decide that? Now that is a scary thought. If a company could get an exemption by calling themselves “artists”, I think we’d see an explosion of new “artists” overnight.

    Summary, there is no exception in these regulations for tiny companies however artistic or void of imagination they may be.

  9. Diana says:

    So no, like it or hate it, unless your usual business is making custom products to order for an individual, you are a manufacturer.

    So if all your business is custom requests whether you make clothing or jewelry for children you are not a manufacturer? And then you do not have to comply with the law.
    And am I understanding you correctly when you say it is no longer just children’s items, it is adults now as well?
    If I buy all my jewelry supplies from a USA company is their certification that the item follows the guidelines enough? How do I get them to send me a certification for each product I buy from them retail?

  10. Artiste says:

    Confusing. How does this apply to Etsy sellers, for example? People who modify already made products (dying shirts, for example)?

  11. Kate Boyles says:

    Since we have practically given all our business to overseas manufacturing including the basic materials for our own manufacturing, I guess this is the outcome that will further break our industrious nation. Shouldn’t foreign manufactures be held to standards that are safe for everyone instead of waiting until they are caught using lead etc. Most recalls as I remember were toys from China. Instead of using common sense the laws and regualtions go over the top and cost smaller manufactures of clothing etc. even more money. I used to sew garments for my children and it would cost me half of retail; therefore two for one. Now, to by fabric for a dress etc. it costs me more in basic materials that I can by it retail off the rack. I wonder how that can be especially with the overhead of the mall stores, manufacturing, importing, service people etc. I feel that the government may want to squeese out the creative private labellers, designers, crafters, seamstresses and other entrepanures and encourage the purchase of foreign goods. This is certainly a way to discourage new business that trys to compete with global products. Kind of like “share the wealth”.

    I have been saving money to put out a clothing line for children with cancer. The cost of such a project is unbelievable and if I now hire seamstresses as private contractors to make the amount I can afford, the government has put another wrench in the mix. If I purchase fabric from a fabric store that says “flame retardant” who knows where it was bought and if it meets US standards. Cha ching, cha ching. Small businesses should be able to grow but what is said and what is reality are two different things. I am very disappointed and feel that my mission will never be accomplished. This was in memory of my baby grandson Jay who died from Cancer at the age of 7 months. My patented garment could save many babies from unnecessary surgery. I would really love to know what the grand scheme is because this is hurting our country and our middle class. I will sign on to any proposal you come up with for congress. Thanks, Kate

  12. I want to address the issue that foreign manufacturers must be held to standards that are safe for everyone, with the implication that foreign goods do not meet US standards. (I’m afraid I must stick to fabric, which is what I know.) In terms of fabric, the US is eons behind Europe and Japan in the types of chemicals allowed in fabric manufacturing. Lead is only one of up to 2000 chemicals used in textile processing; many of those chemicals have been tested and are known to cause cancers, genetic mutations, infertility, etc. Europe’s new REACH program is also much more advanced than any such program in the US, requiring the substitution of benign chemicals for 2,000 of those listed in the REACH program, which is applicable to a wide array of products. The new Global Organic Textile Standard for fabrics offers third party certification for fabrics that have been produced without the wide variety of chemical inputs known to harm human health and it also addresses social equity issues, which have long been the bane of the textile industry. Unfortunately, these new safer fabrics tend to be higher priced, and that coupled with the dropping dollar has meant that US consumers are paying dearly for safe fabric – when they can find it.

  13. Tipper says:

    I haven’t been able to figure this part out: It seems that the key phrase is “that is subject to a product safety rule or similar rule, ban, standard, or regulation.” Are the products produced by small manufacturers/home businesses generally already covered by product safety rules, bans, standards, or regulations? I haven’t heard of any such rules/bans/etc. for products such as cloth diapers and baby carriers.

  14. Stephanie Johnson says:

    I have been researching this all day. So far all I have come up with concerning textiles is the labels. Which I think may not be all that much more expensive… just a hassle. I have read through the stuff on the cspc site about lead and cannot find where it includes textiles. It mentions plastic and Phthalates. (which seems to be a type of plastic) Am I missing something? I need someone to point to what it is we are talking about. Why is there a discussion about textiles and lead? I will follow whatever the law is, even if that means I have to go on welfare because they took away my income. However I can’t find where it says anyhing about textiles and lead. Please help.

  15. Kathleen says:

    ..I have read through the stuff on the cspc site about lead and cannot find where it includes textiles….Am I missing something? Why is there a discussion about textiles and lead? I can’t find where it says anyhing about textiles and lead.

    Try using the CPSIA Wikipedia entry for centralized information. But you’re right, there is not a single mention in the entire law of textiles in reference to lead (only to formaldehyde) but it doesn’t mean textiles aren’t included. Regardless of materials used, meaning your children’s products could be made of anti-matter, mithril or fairy dust. If it’s a child’s product, it must be tested for lead.

  16. Kathleen says:
    “Regardless of materials used, meaning your children’s products could be made of anti-matter, mithril or fairy dust. If it’s a child’s product, it must be tested for lead.”

    I can just see myself hauling a bunch of acrylic yarns into a testing lab and saying … “Please scan this yarn for lead content.”

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself … this new law is making my head hurt. It reminds me of something my daughter told me back when she was a teenager. She felt like she was on a merry-go-round and didn’t know if her pony was going up or down.

  17. Julie says:

    We are a small manufacturer of organic and non-organic children clothes made with Peruvian cotton. I see the law doesn’t require our foreign suppliers to provide any certificate or testing. So, how can I know our foreign supplies meet the safety standards? Where can I have these tests done? How much does the testing cost? What exactly do I need to test for?

  18. Barb says:

    Julie, there is a list of international and U.S. labs at

    The testing costs apparently vary depending on what needs to be tested (such as in accordance with the federal laws/acts in effect at the time), the number of SKUs you have, and the number of components to each one of your SKUs. At this point, they’re heavy into lead testing, flammability, and several of the phthalates that are thought to be the most dangerous.

    Raw materials don’t have to undergo certification, just the finished product at this point. Please double-check everything I’ve mentioned as I am not a professional in this business. I’m just doing research for a family member who wants to enter garment design and manufacturing.

  19. Kate says:

    Hi. I’m still focusing on my goal to provide my patented design garment for sick children. Please Help!
    I purchase “flame resistant” fabric at Jo Ann’s fabric; I don’t know where it is manufactured. I have tested it with flame and it doesn’t burn, but singes slightly. Does this mean that flame resistant fabric even if brought into this country from another meets our standards?

    I would like to use an organic fabric as well, but I guess they would not meet the standards for infant and toddler clothing. One of my products is a romper and it is not considered sleepwear but a mother or caregiver could put a child in one and put the child to bed. What happens then? I can label “not intended for sleepwear”, but I don’t know how strong that is to the consumer.

    I would love to have a list of US manufactures that make fabrics that meet the standards that our country sets regarding flamability and a list of organic cotton or cotton knit manufactures in the USA as well. If possiible I want to give my business to people in my own country.

    Is there anyone that can help me take my design and tweak it to make it more commercially appealing? A portion of my garment needs to be worked carefully so it does not interfere with the face of a child. I have accomplished that but I know it could look much sweeter.

    Please help me if you can. Thank you. Anyone may reply to my e-mail as well. Kate

  20. Candy Tseng says:

    hi, we are a manufacturer from China. Today I received a letter from my client in US, they asked me to issue an statement officialy to confirm that all of our goods do not exceed the 90 ppm threshold of Lead content. But we produce more than 100 kinds of products to this client, that means we have to check out every kind of goods to see if the Lead content exceed 90 ppm. Gosh! that is a huge task. The point is that I want to know if only Children products need to provide certificate or any products, not matter what but that export to USA all need to provide the certificate. I know some products like zipper pull must contain Lead exceed 90 ppm. Can anyone clear me?

  21. Donna says:

    Please help!! I am in the process of finalizing prototypes for a fabric based organizer for baby clothing / articles. I recently showed it to a local baby store who asked if it had been lead certified. Please share anything you know about this and if it would affect storage items for baby products….. Thanks!!!

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