Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966

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Many consumer problems have been, and in some instances still are, caused by incorrect and even fraudulent information disclosure on products and through advertising. The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966 was passed during the Johnson administration to ensure that consumers have the information they need to choose wisely among competing products. The act directs businesses to disclose necessary information truthfully. Product labels must include such basic information as ingredients and contents, quantity, and maker of the product. Therefore, any business engaged in producing and distributing consumer products must comply with the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966. This act comes under the consumer-protection charge of the Federal Trade Commission, which bears the primary responsibility for making sure that labeling is not false and misleading. Textiles and food products are two examples of products regulated under this act, which not only prevents consumer deception but also provides consumers with the opportunity to compare value.

Amendments to the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966, passed in 1992 and enforced beginning in 1994, require labels to include conversion of quantities into a metric measurement in addition to the customary U.S. system of weights and measures. There was a great deal of opposition to this act from both private and public-sector manufacturers that sold their products only in the United States. For example, some paint manufacturers said that labeling contents in pints and gallons should be sufficient since their paint was sold only in the United States. The minimum federal penalty for not including metric measurements was established at $10,000. State regulators have the authority to remove products from store shelves if they were not compliant with the established guidelines.

Under the George H.W. Bush administration, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 was passed, which requires detailed information on labels and standardized descriptive phrases such as "low fat" and "light." Manufacturers had to comply with this act by 1994. Since the passage of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, people are better satisfied with the information printed on food and drug labels (Kristal, Levy, Patterson, Li, & White, 1998). While manufacturers were initially opposed to the new nutrition labeling, mainly because of cost, it was predicted that consumer health benefits would exceed the cost.

In 1993 the Food and Drug Administration issued additional regulations to the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, stating that restaurant menus must comply with regulations for nutrient and health claims that appear on signs, placecards, and menus. The rule was finalized in 1996, establishing criteria under which restaurants must provide nutrition information for menu items. Thus, healthier or low-fat menu choices must be highlighted with claims such as no more than 5 grams of fat per serving. Restaurants are getting excellent customer response, better than expected, to providing healthy food choices. Consumers today are demanding higher quality. Fair labeling and packaging help assure consumers that they are getting the high quality they are demanding.

see also Packaging


Baker, H. (2001). "Worth the weight." Global Cosmetic Industry, 163(3), 18-19.

Federal Trade Commission. "The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, 15 U.S.C.§§1451-1461." Retrieved from www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fplajump.html.

Kristal, A. R., Levy, L., Patterson, R. E., Li, S. S., & White, E. (1998). "Trends in food use associated with new labeling regulations." American Journal of Public Health, 88(8), 1212-1216.

Kurtzweil, P. (1997). "Today's special nutrition information." FDA Consumer, 31(4), 21-26.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "Guide to nutrition labeling and education act." Retrieved from www.fda.gov/ora/inspect_ref/igs/nleatxt.html.

Phyllis Bunn

Laurie Barfitt