Written on: June 1, 2021 by Nicholas Georges
When consumers get in the habit of using the same product over and over, they tend not to notice when the label changes, especially if it’s not a logo or color change on the front of the package. However, there might be changes that a consumer wouldn’t ever notice.
I recently attended a webinar where the presenter mentioned seeing more ingredients listed on the back of cleaning product labels and assumed that it was the result of product manufacturers and marketers moving to Greener (and safer) ingredients in an effort to differentiate their products in the marketplace. However, cleaning product professionals know that more ingredients are being listed on product labels as a result of the California Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017, also known as SB258.
The Household & Commercial Products Association (HCPA) played a lead role in negotiating the California Cleaning Product Right to Know Act, which aims to provide consumers and workers with information about the ingredients in their cleaning products to help them make informed decisions and feel confident about the products they’re using. As a result of this law, companies could comply with realistic disclosure requirements and customers could deservedly gain access to information about the ingredients in their cleaning products.
Any law enacted in California will have ripple effects across the U.S. It’s not practical for companies to manufacture products just for California, so products across the country now include ingredient information that is required by the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act. The fact that I live across the country but still have access to the same ingredient information as someone living in California is evidence that the law is working as intended.
I didn’t consider that consumers would think products are safer as a result of disclosing ingredients on the label. In fact, I feared that we would see pushback and criticism about the hazard of certain ingredients. While it’s not fair to raise concerns about the safety of ingredients without considering the full formulation, this does happen.
Take preservatives, for example. Products could be reformulated without preservatives by making the product more acidic or alkalinic to prevent bacteria from growing; however, this would introduce new risks to the consumer since a product would no longer be a neutral pH and could be corrosive to the skin.
Product manufacturers consider all of these situations during the development of a product and make the best, and most responsible, decisions keeping safety in mind—even if it requires using ingredients that consumers have to look up online to understand their purpose.
Companies have invested significant time and resources into creating an ingredient inventory that’s easy for customers to understand and use, which was harder than it sounds. In recognition of this challenge, HCPA (then named the Consumer Specialty Products Association) developed a Consumer Product Ingredients Dictionaryi to provide standardized nomenclature to assist companies with their ingredient disclosure efforts.
Systems can be built to manage one set of ingredient disclosure requirements, but it becomes difficult when there are conflicting requirements—for example, if States start to implement requirements that don’t align with California. This can cause confusion among consumers and workers, who will not understand the different disclosure requirements.
That’s why HCPA supports a national standard for cleaning product ingredient disclosure, one that is workable for companies to comply with and customers to have access to the important information they need to make informed purchasing decisions.
Consumers and workers deserve transparent and consistent information about the ingredients that make up their cleaning products—the products they rely on to keep them safe and healthy. Industry also needs consistency from legislators and regulators in order to effectively provide this information.
For more information about ingredient disclosure, please contact me at ngeo[email protected]. SPRAY