Labeling bill moves forward

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, May 30, 2013 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) is the author of SB 465, “Container Packaging and Labeling,” which clarifies that “nonfunctional slack fill” (the empty space in a package that is filled to substantially less than its capacity) is legitimate for a number of reasons. The bill does not change current law, but is declaratory only.

Consumers in California are currently protected by a variety of Federal and State statutes that regulate the labeling and packaging of consumer products. One such statute, codified under California Business and Professions Code sec. 12606 and Health & Safety Code sec. 110375, prohibits product containers from being misleading though the use of “nonfunctional slack fill,” impermissible empty space between the actual container capacity and the volume of the product contained therein.

In 1997, the California Legislature identified a variety of reasons manufacturers should be permitted to have extra space in their packaging, and accordingly, the Code sections were amended to include certain exemptions through AB 1394 (Figueroa). This measure provided a strong stance against misleading and fraudulent packaging practices, while providing reasonable parameters that take into account the needs of consumers as well as the wide range of product packaging requirements.

Fifteen years after the codification of the slack fill exemptions, however, companies are facing inconsistent enforcement actions in California for their product packaging. Toy companies, personal care product companies, pharmaceutical companies and food manufacturers have found themselves taken to court by local district attorneys in a number of jurisdictions.  Such actions are being pursued in violation of the statutory exemptions agreed to by all relevant parties under the 1997 legislation. 

Enforcement actions levied against a manufacturer can result in harsh monetary penalties and force manufacturers to spend millions of dollars modifying packaging for products sold in California and around the world. For packaging that clearly violates the statute and fails to qualify for one of the enumerated exemptions, this is just. However, those companies who were in compliance with the law should not be subjected to frivolous enforcement actions for which they will have to fight.

CMTA is one of thirteen industry associations supporting SB 465.  It was passed without opposition from the Senate on Thursday and is now in the Assembly for assignment.

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