FDA Responds to PO Box Petition

In August of 2012, the HSCG wrote a Citizen Petition to the FDA – Department of Health & Human Services, regarding the use of a PO Box in the place of a street address on a cosmetic label.  We did this mainly for the safety of the small businesses that make up the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry as many of them operate out of their primary residence.   In February of 2013, we received an interim response from FDA stating that they were still reviewing the request and had not reached a decision.  The original petition as well as the supporting documentation can be viewed online at regulations.gov.

In November of 2014, we decided to send in a supplement letter to the petition to update FDA with our new name (the association changed from The Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild to The Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild in February of 2013) and our significant increase in membership (182% since the first petition).  We again requested that a PO Box be allowed in the place of a street address on a cosmetic label.

We received a final response letter from FDA denying our request to change the current regulation.  You can read the full letter here.

Even though the request was denied and the regulation will not change, there was some clarification on what constitutes a “telephone or city directory”.  You need to pay close attention to this…

Under current regulation, the business name and address (full street address) of the person or business responsible for the product must be on every cosmetic label.  The business address must include the street address, city, state and the ZIP code unless the business is listed in a current city or telephone directory under the business name.  In the response letter from FDA dated November 14, 2014, they defined “city directory or current telephone directory” as both print AND online and that either would satisfy the option under the current regulation if the street address is not listed on a cosmetic label.  They further offer the following examples of acceptable online directories that are “no cost or nominal cost” annually:

What this means for a small handcrafted soap and cosmetic business is that in order to meet the requirement under the regulation, to omit your street address, you would only need to list your business in one of these directories annually.  It would be important to keep the listing up to date with current information.

On the one hand, we were disappointed that a PO Box was not accepted but it was nice to see that the FDA is taking advantage of the non-traditional directory options offered by the internet.  On the whole, this is great news for our industry.



Legal News: Soap Loaf Trademark

Last week it came to our attention that a private handcrafted soap company had successfully trademarked the term “soap loaf”.

This word mark was published for opposition by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on February 5, 3013. The owner has been enforcing the mark on various sites (e.g. eBay) and having handcrafted soapmakers and suppliers that use the term “soap loaf” removed for trademark violation.

Photo credit: southernfried from morguefile.com

The term “soap loaf” is a generic term that has been widely used in the handcrafted soap industry for decades and the trademark of this term creates an issue for the HSCG Members selling products using it. Both soapmaker (also known as handcrafter) and supplier members of the HSCG sell products using “soap loaf”, including both soap and molds, so this has far reaching effects in the industry.

On Monday, September 30, the HSCG Board of Directors made a decision to file a “Petition to Cancel Registration” with the Trademark Trial Appeal Board on behalf of the membership.

While we were in the process of compiling data and preparing our filing with the attorney we received notice that the company had voluntarily canceled the registration of this trademark. It is no longer necessary for the HSCG to take legal action and those of you that were using the term “soap loaf” to sell can now resume doing so without the fear of repercussions.

Share Your Voice: US Labeling

The HSMG has submitted a petition that needs your voice.

In mid-2012, the HSMG submitted a citizen’s petition to the US FDA requesting a change in the law to make a PO box acceptable on cosmetic product labels in lieu of a street address.  The FDA confirmed receipt in August and has been collecting public comments on the petition prior to issuing a response, expected in the first quarter of 2013.

MLK March 2Photo by Flickr member Jeffrey Smith. Used under a Creative Commons License

Current FDA regulations state that the business name and address must be on the product label. The business street address is required unless the business is listed in a printed city directory or telephone directory, in which case only the city, state and zip code are required on the product label.

Why You Care

The issue of being required to put your street address on your product labels has been brought to our attention many times over the past year. The general consensus is that this requirement poses an inconvenience and a safety risk to those with home-based businesses.  Due to safety concerns and changes in the ways consumers search for business info, we believe allowing a PO box on cosmetic labels to be good common sense while mitigating some of the security risks that soapmakers undertake today in publishing their street addresses on product labels.

Share Your Voice

Here’s where we need your help.  The FDA is still collecting comments on this petition, so your thoughts and real-life examples will help determine the future of our PO box request.  Go to the petition here and click “Comment Now!” to submit your comment.

Find out more:

>>For an in-depth explanation, see Anne-Marie’s post on the Soap Queen blog.

>>Read the petition in full here.

Let the FDA know how you feel about the current labeling requirements!