Marie Gale Answers Your Questions

I should have been more specific. Our soaps always weigh more than the weight on the box. What the NJ weights and measures are giving our customer grief over is that it varies, and is not exactly what is on the box on every bar. 1. Do they have the ability to even govern this, i cannot find anything that gives them legal power over soap. 2. Where is the federal law that specifies soap labeling that i can provide to the client? I cant find that.  -- J.T.

Generally the Department or Division of Weights and Measures is the one that has authority over the measurement of what it in a package, and the labeling of the packages.  New Jersey adopted the Uniform Weights and Measures Regulation and the Uniform Weighmaster Law suggested by the National Insitutes of Standards and Technology Handbook 130. The 2019 version can be found here, but according to the NIST website, they adopted an earlier version. So, in answer to your first question, the NJ Weights and Measures does have legal power over soap because it is a consumer commodity.

The New Jersey packaging and labeling regulations, which can be found here (see page 5).  The NJ regulations are easy --- they say to see the NIST Handbook 130, 2018 edition, at IV.A.6 and IV.A.7.   The actual text (as of 2019) can be found here, on pages 63-74.  The key provisions that apply to your question are :

  • 6.3: A declaration of the net quantity shall appear on the principal display panel.
  • 6.12: Quantity declaration cannot have supplemental statement (such as "miminum" or "when packed")
  • 6.15:  The average quantity of contents in the packages of a particular lot, shipment, or delivery shall at least equal the declared quantity, and no unreasonable shortage in any package shall be permitted even though overages in other packages in the same shipment, delivery, or lot compensate for such shortage.

As for the federal regulations for labeling soap - they are found in 16 CFR 500.  The paragraphs applicable here are probably 500.25 and 500.26. 

I hope that helps you work it out with the NJ Weights and measures and your customer.


We have a 3 store health food chain in nj that carries our bar soap. We have our bar weight listed on our box, but as you know with soap, that weight changes based on cure, cut, etc. So no 2 bars are exactly alike in weight,  and our listed weight has to be a blended average. I need help in how to address this, as its jeopardizing our account. I cannot find anything in the NJ weights and measures that even says they can govern this. Help!!!!  -- J.T.

The "blended average" is not allowed in the US. That's sort of what the "e" estimated symbol is used for the the EU, but we don't have that option in the US.

The weight on the box is supposed to be the actual and accurate net weight of the product, but there is provision of "reasonable variance" due to evaporation, manufacturing practices, and the like.  But even so, the stated net weight CANNOT be more than the actual weight of the product.

With soap, because of the evaporation issue and the unknown variable of how long it will stay on the shelf until purchased, you'll need to calculate the LOWEST weight it COULD be when the consumer purchases. 

You can make that calculation mathematically by adding up the weight of all the ingredients EXCEPT the water (for the batch and then divide by the number of bars in the batch).

You can also make that calculation empirically by figuring out the longest amount of time until the product is sold, and then measuring the weight of a bar that has been sitting around in a similar environment for at least that long.

Hi Marie - Can you point me to the Florida statute that states that home based businesses cant make any product other than soap? For example - no lotions, scrubs, etc. Thanks. Joan King  -- J.K.

It's Florida Statutes (here:

499.01 Permits:  Says "Prior to operating, a permit is required for each person and establishment that intends to operate as: .... a cosmetic manufacturer"

499.012(1)(a) which says "An establishment that is a place of residence may not receive a permit and may not operate under this part."

Cosmetic is defined in 499.003(13)(a): "an article, with the exception of soap, that is intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on; introduced into; or otherwise applied to the human body or any part thereof for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance."

The cosmetic manufacturing laws apply to making any type of cosmetics, which includes lotions, scrubs, fizzies, lip balm, lotion bars, cream, etc.  It also includes soap that is marketed as a cosmetic (that is, it claims to do more than just clean, such as moisturize, etc.).

If you are manufacturing soap that is exempt from the definition of a cosmetic (which means that it is the alkali salt of fatty acids and is labeled and marketed only as "soap"), then the cosmetic manufacturing laws don't apply. 


I recently started to use lake colors in my bath bombs, and I am having trouble finding a correct answer on how to properly label them. Can I simply use "RED 40" or do I need to label "FD&C Red 40 Aluminum Lake" or someone had even recently told me I needed to put "FD&C RED 40 LAKE BATCH #12345678. It's safe to say I am more than confused. Any insight you have will be GREATLY appreciated!  -- K.K.

You can just use Red 40.  You don' tneed to specify the batch number (that is only necessary for manufacturers who are providing the ingredient, not for consumer products).

I am surprised that you are using lakes in your bath bombs since lakes, by definition, are not water soluable.  

Marie, Enjoyed your class. Trying to implement GMP and can't find recommendations re: how long to retain samples of soap, lip balm, bath bombs, lotion, and salts. The only thing I found was a European recommendation that said 1 year after expiration, which makes soap and salts problematic, and we don't usually put expiration dates on the other products. What is your best recommendation? Thank you. Anne  -- A.R.

General rule is that retain samples should be kept for 1 year past the end of the shelf life.

For soaps that can last a pretty long time, I'd say keeping 1 year past the reasonable time that a person would hold on to them or use them should be okay.

Nearly all other cosmetic products - particularly those that could be affected by environment/humidity (bath bombs, bath salts), that contain preservatives (lotions, creams), or that have other potential degradation over time (scent dissipation) SHOULD have an expiration date.  Even if you don't put it on the package (which I would recommend doing), you should have a standard within your GMP. Kep the retain samples 1 year past that date.

What's the best way to incorporate batch numbers on products? A separate label or should it be on the product label itself. Is it okay if it is handwritten? Sheri  -- S.V.

In big companies, the batch number is included on the label or stamped onto the container when it is filled.  For handcrafters, you have several options...

If you make the labels yourself and only print enough for each batch when it is done, then including the batch number when you print should be relatively easy.  That looks the cleanest.

If you have labels printed in advance and you have room, you can leave a space for the batch number and then either stick on a label with the batch number or write in the batch number.  Keep in mind that if the labels are printed professionally and are on glossy paper or have a UV coating, you won't be able to easily write on the label.

In either case, another option would be to print little stand-alone labels that say "batch number 12345" and stick those on the container/package somewhere.  

Handwriting the batch number is fine, so long as it is readable.  If you are thinking about taking that option, take into consideration whether a handwritten addition to the label would be appropriate for your brand and your selected target customer base.

Marie is available to answer questions submitted by HSCG members concerning product labeling . Use the form below to submit your question.

Sorry! Submission of questions to our expert is only available to current HSCG Members. If you are a member, please log in and then submit your question.

Product Label Review

Marie is offering HSCG members a special 40% discount on her Product Label Review service.  The is a terrific opportunity to have a fresh set of eyes looking at your label and checking to see if it is in compliance with all the applicable regulations.

Marie will review the label, and give you a detailed report covering anything that could or should be revised to have a fully compliant label.  Included in the service is an additional check once you have made any updates.

The price is normally $125. With the special discount, HSCG members may purchase for $75 (40% discount). 

Go To Store: Product Label Review