One of the most frustrating things to find on the Internet are the legal guidelines and regulations for designing cosmetic and drug product labels. The next most frustrating thing after finding them is usually fishing through pages and pages of confusing text that take forever to get to the point. I was reminded of that today after searching the Internet for FDA guidelines on labeling. Perhaps my first mistake was the keywords I chose, not really being so aware of any possible differences in terminology and being quick to try and find what I wanted. I hope this blog post finds its way to other designers and individuals facing the frustrations of searching for labelling guidelines and helps ease the stress of looking through endless links of documents that are of little to no assistance.
Health Canada Labelling Guides
For the Health Canada website, choosing “label” and “design” in search provides results where the second link displays what I was looking for, the Labelling Guidance Document for Natural Health Products (NHPs). This document is quite well-written and clear compared to other documents I have encountered in the past. While searching for the Labelling of Cosmetics, I found something I wasn’t looking for on the Health Canada website that is useful nonetheless: Guidelines for Cosmetic Advertising and Labelling Claims.
FDA Labeling Guidelines
Using the same search parameters from the Health Canada site on the FDA website is a different story. In fact, it’s a nightmare. Most of the results show links to studies for better labelling designs. Already on the second page, I still haven’t come across what I’m looking for. Not even a guide on food labels – a result that seemed to show up almost immediately on Google, which, at this point, I’m probably better off using. Having done the search earlier at work, I found the key was to search for “OTC labels”, which then led me to the following documents: OTC Labeling: Questions and Answers, The New Over-the-Counter Medicine Label: Take a Look and the New OTC Drug Facts Label. The latter is more familiar looking with a more standardized look like the nutritional facts label found on food products. I’ve decided to post all three similar links for future reference in case the FDA decides to do a little switch up on the folders later on. An even better find is the information for the consumer which contains a number of useful brochures about the drug facts label, PSAs and articles: Consumer Education: Over-the-Counter Medicine. I wonder what it takes to get to this page from the home page? Fortunately, I’m not bored enough to try and find out.
For a real hoot, the FDA’s Cosmetic Labeling Guide from October 1991 needs an aesthetic overhaul. But I must admit, despite the tables looking like they’ve been painted with terrible foundation and lipstick colours, the information, although lengthy, is organized and initially sectioned in a fairly clear manner. Too bad it’s easy to get lost once you’ve scrolled down far enough. Maybe there’s a more recent revision hiding amidst the multitude of data. Then again, I did find that guide from a most lovely page on cosmetics which also has links to the hairy side of labelling: claims. Get with the times, FDA. It’s 2009, about time for an update on that guide.
Other than that FDA Cosmetic Labeling Guide, I’m quite glad that most of the documents have been revised in terms of looks and readability on both the FDA and Health Canada websites. It really helps when guidelines are written like a checklist or outlines, rather than lengthy paragraphs where words get lost in a sea of black and white text. Or, in the case of the Cosmetic Labeling Guide, a sea of eyesore.