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Packaging Boss Criticizes USDA Labelling

A packaging company has said that a label for biobased products, recently launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, (USDA) could mislead consumers.

Laura Rowell, director of sustainable packaging at MWV, told CosmeticsDesign that the logo may confuse consumers by not including “mature market products”.

These products, which the USDA defines as those that had a signficiant market share in 1972, are excluded from the labelling program to encourage production of new biobased products, Rowell said.

“The main point of concern is that it will add to consumer confusion over marketing claims,” Rowell said.

The USDA launched the voluntary product certification last month.

The “USDA Certified Biobased Product” label will designate products, other than food and feed, that derive a certain proportion of their materials from biological sources.

Product categories under the initiative include personal and institutional cleaning products, construction products, and lubricants and greases.

Rowell said that consumers looking at mature market biobased products will not know why they are not certified as biobased by the USDA.

“The USDA has a unique definition of biobased which consumers don’t understand, and the fact that the biobased label only applies to emerging market products is not disclosed [on the label],” she explained. “The label could create an artificial definition of what is biobased, and if this definition is not communicated to consumers it could be misleading”.

Rowell also said it could be unclear to customers whether the label refers to the product itself or to its packaging.

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