Children’s products that are designed or intended primarily for use by children 12 years of age or younger must have distinguishing permanent marks (generally referred to as “tracking labels”) that are affixed to the product and its packaging and that provide certain identifying information.
What information must the tracking label contain?
A tracking label must contain certain basic information, including:
(1) the name of the manufacturer or private labeler;
(2) the location and date of production of the product;
(3) detailed information on the manufacturing process, such as a batch or run number, or other identifying characteristics; and
(4) any other information to facilitate ascertaining the specific source of the product.
All such information should be visible and legible.
CPSC staff believes that compliance with the tracking label requirement will help improve the effectiveness and response rates for future recalls. Where a component has been identified as the source of the hazard or violation, compliance with the requirement also will help the CPSC and companies in the chain of commerce to identify other products that may contain the same component.
Where can I find the law?
You can find the law in section 14(a)(5) of the Consumer Product Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. §2063(a)(5) (CPSA). (The requirement was originally part of section 103 of Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) (Public Law 110-314).)
The Commission has also published a statement of policy on this requirement.
Who is responsible for compliance with the tracking label requirement?
The U.S. manufacturer for products manufactured domestically and the importer for products manufactured overseas.
I already label my product for other federal regulations. Must I add a new "tracking label" as well?
“Tracking label” is a shorthand term used in place of the phrase “distinguishing permanent marks” found in section 14(a)(5) of the CPSA. Manufacturers should not interpret “label” to mean that all of the information has to be printed in one discrete location or label. If a product already has some or all of the required information, manufacturers need not duplicate existing marks onto a new “label” and the additional required “distinguishing permanent marks” may be added to an existing label.
For example, the Commission believes that required information, already marked permanently on the product to brand it or otherwise comply with other Commission or federal regulations, such as those promulgated under the Textile, Wool and Fur Acts or country of origin labeling rules, could be considered part of the “distinguishing marks” called for by section 14(a)(5) of the CPSA. The Registered Identification Number (RN) required by the Federal Trade Commission under the Textile, Wool and Fur Acts, however, does not, on its own, satisfy this requirement.
Any markings that a manufacturer relies upon would have to be permanent, and the product would still need to meet all of the requirements set forth in section 14(a)(5) of the CPSA.
What information needs to be provided on the product and its packaging to meet the tracking label requirement?
The tracking label must contain information that will enable the manufacturer and ultimate purchaser to determine the manufacturer or private labeler, the location and date of production of the product, the cohort information (such as the batch, run number, or other identifying characteristic), and any other information determined by the manufacturer to help determine the specific source of the product.
Must the manufacturer's name be present on a tracking label?
Yes. The tracking label must contain information that will allow the ultimate purchaser to determine 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.)
What is the date of production for purposes of the tracking label?
Products may not always be made in a single day. Therefore, the date of production could be a range of dates if the product is made over a period of time. When the product is a group of disparate components or items assembled together or gathered into one package, the Commission interprets the date of manufacture to mean the date of assembly or placement into one package.
What is the location of production for purposes of the tracking label?
The names of the country and the city where the product was manufactured are sufficient to provide the location of production. However, the manufacturer is always responsible for identifying the specific source of the product in the event of a compliance inquiry or other Commission action.
Are there exceptions?
Congress modified the requirement for tracking labels with the phrase “to the extent practicable,” recognizing that it may not be practical for permanent distinguishing marks to be printed on small toys and other small products that are manufactured and shipped without individual packaging. In those situations, the package or carton in which the products are shipped to the retailer should be marked.
What does "to the extent practicable" mean?
The Commission, in its statement of policy, stated that the Commission expects a manufacturer to depart from the specific requirements only for considered and definable reasons.
Each manufacturer is responsible for making a reasonable judgment about which of the required information can be marked on their product and packaging, given the character and type of their product and packaging. When considering the reasonableness of a manufacturer’s decision regarding what information to include in its markings, the Commission intends to look at the individual manufacturer’s situation, along with the practices of peer manufacturers. If a manufacturer makes a determination that it is not practicable to mark the product or its packaging, the manufacturer should make a written record of the reasons on which it based its decision, including copies of any research conducted into the practices of peer manufacturers and other information about its product, which factored into the manufacturer’s decision.
Remember that the tracking label is required for both the product and its packaging. While it may not be practicable to affix the tracking label to the product, it may still be practicable to affix the tracking label information to the product’s packaging.
Has the Commission provided specifications or guidelines as to the size, location, and format of the tracking label?
The Commission has not provided specifications or drafted a sample tracking label because each type of consumer product may warrant a different type of tracking label. If you are a manufacturer, importer, or private labeler, and have satisfied all of the requirements in section 14(a)(5) of the CPSA, you have satisfied the legal requirement.
Is the information ascertainable if I mark my product and packaging with a code and website address where all the required information can be found?
Yes, provided the name of a manufacturer, importer, or private labeler is also identified so a consumer without access to the internet can know whom to contact directly to also obtain the required information.
What is a "permanent" mark?
The Commission considers a “permanent” mark on a product to be a mark that can reasonably be expected to remain on the product during the useful life of the product.
A mark on disposable packaging need only be permanent to the extent that it is durable enough to reach the consumer. As such, an adhesive label on a piece of disposable packaging might be sufficient for a packaging mark. Further, if a mark is visible on the product through disposable packaging, there is no need for the mark to be on the packaging.
The Commission is aware that some voluntary standards have provisions concerning the permanency of labels. Such standards may provide some guidance to manufacturers when determining whether a marking is permanent.
Must the packaging and product both be marked?
In most instances, both the packaging and the product must be marked. However, the statute recognizes that this might not always be practicable. Some circumstances the Commission agrees might not be practicable for marking a product include:
If a product is too small to be marked; the law’s legislative history recognizes that a product’s size is a primary consideration in determining if marking only the packaging is feasible.
If a toy is meant to be stored in a box or other packaging, such as games with boards and small game pieces; the board and the box should be marked in this instance; but the individual game pieces do not need to be marked. This principle would apply similarly to arts and crafts kits for children. Again, only the storage box and one integral part of the kit need to marked; and not every item in the crafting kit needs to be marked. Where a number of small products, such as marbles, buttons, and beads are packaged together, the Commission believes that marking the package would be sufficient. For products that are meant to stay with or be contained in their original packaging, the packaging would be considered part of the “product.”
If a product is sold through a bulk vending machine, the item does not need to be individually marked, but the package or carton in which such products are shipped to the retailer should be marked.
If a physical mark would weaken or damage the product or impair its utility, the item does not need to be individually marked.
If a product surface would be impossible to mark permanently, such as products made of elastics, beads, small pieces of fabric (e.g., jewelry, hair ornaments), or craft items like pipe stems or natural rocks.
If the aesthetics of the product would be ruined by a mark, and a mark cannot be placed in an accessible but inconspicuous location, then the item does not need to be individually marked.
For items meant to be sold as sets or pairs and that function only as sets or pairs, only one item of the pair, or an integral part of the set, would need to be marked. Shoes are an example.
Remember that even if the product does not need to be marked based on the examples above, the product’s packaging must still be marked.
Can adhesive labels be used for the tracking label on the product and/or the packaging?
Yes, if certain conditions are met. The label must be permanent in that it should maintain its integrity throughout the expected lifespan of the children’s product. A mark on disposable packaging need only be permanent to the extent that it is durable enough to reach the consumer. As such, an adhesive label on a piece of disposable packaging might be sufficient as a packaging mark.
Could hangtags and adhesive labels be used as tracking labels for textile-type items?
No. The law requires that markings with the specified information be permanent. Hangtags and adhesive labels are not permanent. Labels for textiles must be durable enough to last for the anticipated lifespan of the product if consumers follow the care and handling instructions.
I make hand-crafted children's goods in my home. How does the tracking label requirement affect me?
You must comply with this requirement because the law does not provide exemptions or exceptions for this requirement based on the size of the business.
However, when considering your obligations, you should review the following:
What kind of tracking system do you currently use? You do not necessarily have to create a new system of lot, batch, or run numbers to identify when you made your products. However, your products and their packaging should identify your company in sufficient detail to enable a consumer to reach you so that the required information may be determined.
What information can be determined about your product? If someone handed you one of your products sold last year, what would you be able to tell them about the materials used? You must keep records, including your receipts and purchase orders, because they will help you identify the source of your product and its components and when you began using them.
How is your product marked? If someone had one of your products sold last year, would they know who to call if there was a problem? Absent any unusual circumstances, your business name should be on your product with sufficient detail to enable a consumer to reach you. Congress recognized that there could be instances in which marking a product might not be practicable, such as a product that is very small. Consider the examples, outlined above, in which it might not be practicable to mark a product.
How is your packaging marked? Could a retailer of your product see from the packaging (or from the product, if the product marking is still fully visible) information that would enable them in the event of a recall to take just your products from the shelf?
Compliance with the new requirements will require a number of small hand crafters to rethink the way they maintain their records and mark their products.
I make children's wooden blocks that include 20 in a set. How do I mark these products?
Congress recognized that it might not be practicable to mark every part of a child’s game that has a board and small game pieces. It may be unnecessary to mark all 20 of the blocks in each of your sets. Depending on the nature of your blocks, it might be reasonable to mark one side of one block. If the blocks come with a reusable storage box or bag, that container is considered part of the product and must bear the required information.
I make children's socks. Do I have to attach tracking labels to each item?
No. The reasonableness of attaching a label to hosiery has already been thoroughly considered in the application of the federal Care Labeling rules. Those rules can be a guide to what is practicable in this case. The outer packaging must bear the required information.
My company manufactures and imports various beds, as well as night stands, dressers, chests of drawers, and mirrors. Are tracking labels required for furniture for children?
Yes, you must have tracking labels for all products if the product is designed and primarily intended for children 12 years of age or younger. In a children’s furniture set, there must be a tracking label affixed to each item of furniture included within the set.