Overview of the different labeling and marking requirements, including any restrictive advertising or labeling practices and where to get more information.
There is a broad array of EU legislation pertaining to the marking, labeling, and packaging of products in the European Union. The first step in investigating the marking, labeling, and packaging legislation that might apply to a product entering the European Union is to draw a distinction between what is mandatory and what is voluntary. Decisions related to mandatory marking, labeling, or packaging requirements may sometimes be left up to individual Member States. Furthermore, voluntary marks and labels are used as marketing tools in some Member States but not in others. This section is focused primarily on the mandatory marks and labels seen most often on consumer products and packaging, which are typically related to public safety, health, or environmental concerns. It also includes a brief overview of a few mandatory packaging requirements, as well as more common voluntary marks or labels used in EU markets.
It is also important to distinguish between marks and labels. A mark is a symbol and/or pictogram that appears on a product or its respective packaging. These range in scope from signs of danger to indications of methods of proper recycling and disposal. The intention of such marks is to provide market surveillance authorities, importers, distributors, and end users with information concerning safety, health, energy efficiency and environmental issues relating to a product. Labels, on the other hand, appear in the form of written text or numerical statements, which may be required but are not necessarily universally recognizable. Labels typically indicate more specific information about a product, such as measurements or an indication of materials that may be found in the product (such as in textiles or batteries).
Mandatory Marks and Labels
Voluntary Marks and Labels
- Materials in contact with food
- The Green Dot
- Recycling marks
Voluntary and mandatory marks and labels apply to all EU Member States, countries in the European Economic Area, European Free Trade Association, as well as candidate countries seeking membership to the European Union.
Mandatory Marks and Labels
CE marking is probably the most widely used and recognized marking required by the European Union. Found in all “New Approach” legislation with a few exceptions, CE marking demonstrates that a product meets all essential requirements (typically related to safety, health, energy efficiency, or environmental concerns) of applicable EU regulations. CE marking is required for the following products and product families:
Not all products must have the CE Mark. Only products that fall under the regulations or directives for the categories above have the CE Mark. It is forbidden to use the CE mark on other products, such as cosmetics or chemicals. The CE mark is a declaration by the manufacturer that the product meets all EU legal requirements and does not indicate that authorities have approved the product. CE marked products can be sold in all EU countries and the European Economic Area. Exporters should also note that CE markings are routinely falsified by manufacturers outside of the European Union.
Starting on July 16, 2021, all CE marked products will need to have an EU address on the label. This also applies to products sold online. The name and address must appear on the product or the product’s packaging so that customs and market surveillance authorities can have a contact person in case the product is suspected to present a risk. If an importer or distributor cannot fulfill that role, an exporter will have to appoint an Authorized Representative in the European Union or use a shipping platform to play that role. The Authorized Representative is responsible for ensuring the availability of the conformity documentation, cooperating with market surveillance authorities, and informing authorities when they have reasons to believe that a product presents a risk. In March 2021, the European Commission published guidelines under Article 4 of the Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2019/1020)).
For more information on obtaining a CE Mark, please contact the U.S. Mission to the European Union.
According to the Cosmetics Regulation (1223/2009), containers and packaging in certain cases must include:
- The name, trade name and address, or registered office, of the manufacturer or person responsible for marketing the cosmetic product within the European Union.
- The nominal contents at the time of packaging (by weight or volume).
- The date of minimum durability indicated by “best before end,” for products with a minimum durability of less than thirty months. In this case, this symbol must be included on the packaging:
- The batch number or product reference for identification.
- The product’s function
- If it is impossible for practical reasons to print on the packaging all the conditions of use and warnings, an enclosed leaflet, label, or tape must be provided, and the following symbol has to be on the packaging:
With respect to the labeling of nanomaterials present in cosmetics, the Cosmetics Regulation indicates that “all ingredients present in the form of nanomaterials shall be clearly indicated in the list of ingredients” and that “the names of such ingredients shall be followed by the word ‘nano’ in brackets.”
According to the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Hazardous Substances (CLP) Regulation (Regulation 1272/2008), a label of dangerous substances must indicate the name of the substance; the origin of the substance, specifically, the name and address of the manufacturer or distributor; the danger symbol and an indication of danger involved in the use of the substance; and a reference to the special risks arising from such dangers.
The dimensions of the label must not be less than a standard A8 sheet of paper (52 mm x 74 mm), and each symbol must cover at least one-tenth of the label’s surface area. Member States may require their national language(s) to be used in the labeling of dangerous substances. If the packaging is too small, the labeling may be affixed in some other manner. The packaging of products considered dangerous, but are neither explosive nor toxic, may go unlabeled if the product contains such small quantities of dangerous substances that there is no danger to consumers.
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE)
Energy labels, according to Regulation 2017/1369, show how appliances rank on a scale from A (green), the most energy efficient, to G (red), according to their energy consumption. These labels apply to different categories of household appliances including air conditioners, refrigerators, televisions, washing machines, space heaters, and solid fuel boilers, among others. They are meant to help consumers choose the less energy consuming products and promote product ecologically friendly products. As of March 1, 2021, new energy labels will include QR codes that consumers can scan. In order to facilitate the energy label use, the European Union maintains a site for generating energy labels.
In addition, since January 1, 2019, manufacturers, importers, and authorized representatives of non-EU manufacturers have to register all products requiring energy labels in the European Product Database for Energy Label and Eco-Design, access to which is available to EU consumers.
Devices for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmosphere
Do Not Eat
The label must be legible, firmly secured, and accessible, and the manufacturer or the authorized representative established in the European Union is responsible for supplying the label and for the accuracy of the information contained therein. Only the information provided for in the Directive needs to be supplied. There are no restrictions preventing additional information from being included on the label.
The steering wheel mark shown above is the equivalent of CE marking for marine equipment. It applies to equipment for use on board any new ship in the European Union, wherever the ship is situated at the time of construction, and on equipment placed on board existing ships in the European Union, whether for the first time or to replace equipment already carried on board. It does not apply to equipment already on board on the date on which the directive entered into force in 1997. The directive applies to life-saving appliances, marine pollution prevention, fire protection, navigation equipment, and radio communication equipment. A revised Marine Equipment Directive (2014/90/EC) was adopted in July 2014 and is applicable since September 18, 2016.
Noise Emission of Outdoor Equipment
Textile products must be labeled or marked whenever they are put on the market for production or sale. The names, descriptions, and details of a textile’s fiber content must be indicated on products available to consumers. With the exception of trademarks or the name of the undertaking, other types of required information must be listed separately. Member States may require that their national language be used on the labeling. Marking required by the regulation (1007/2011/EU) include textile fiber names, related labelling, and marking of the fiber composition of textile products.
Tire Energy Labelling
Units of Measurement
The use of units of measurement in the European Union is set down in the EU Metric Directive (Directive 80/181/EEC). The Directive, which went into effect on January 1, 2010, was modified to allow the continuation of both supplemental (e.g., U.S. customary, inch-pound) and metric units for consumer goods sold in the European Union. Similarly, the EU pre-packaging Directive (Directive 76/211/EEC) specifies permissible ranges of nominal quantities, container capacities, and the weights or volumes of prepackaged products. It helps guarantee the net quantity in prepacks and the volume of product in bottles. Manufacturers are advised to take note that all labels require metric units, although dual labeling is also acceptable. The e-mark is referred to as the estimated sign, ⟨℮⟩, which also refers to the e-mark or quantité estimée and acts as a metrological “passport” to facilitate the free movement of prepackaged goods. It guarantees that certain liquids and other substances have been packed by weight or volume in accordance with the directives. While compliance is not mandatory, free movement throughout the European Union is guaranteed for prepackaged products that comply with the provisions of the directive.
Containers with an e-mark also bear an indication of the weight or volume of the product, known as its “nominal” weight or volume. The packer (or importer, if the container is produced outside the European Union) is responsible for ensuring that the containers meet the directive’s requirements.
Voluntary Marks and Labels
Materials in Contact with food
The symbol may apply to twenty-five products and services groups including cleaning products, electronic equipment, household equipment, or gardening. The Ecolabel product catalogue provides information on how to apply for the EU Ecolabel. Manufacturers should be aware that similar eco-friendly markings are often used nationally, such as the Nordic Swan or the German Blue Angel.