This is part of the Labeling Basics series in which I am taking labeling back to its most fundamental parts, starting with the legal terms used and then going on to each requirement for soap and cosmetic labels.
Consumer and Commodity are both regular English words, defined in a good dictionary.  A Consumer Commodity is an important term that is defined by law.


A person who purchases goods or services.


Something that is bought and sold.

Consumer Commodity:

A product customarily distributed for retail sale for use by consumers or for the performance of services at home and usually consumed during such use. 1Sec. 10(a), Fair Packaging and Labeling Act

In other words, a consumer commodity is something that a person (the consumer) purchases in a store on online (retail) to be used at home or personnally, and which is normally used up (consumed).

However, if you buy something retail for use in the home or for personal use but it’s not used up, then it is generally not a consumer commodity.

Why is it important?

The labeling laws are different for items that ARE consumer commodities than items that are NOT consumer commodities. Knowing if a product is classed as a consumer commodity will help you determine if certain laws or regulations apply or not.

Examples of a consumer commodities:


Hand cream

Household cleaning supplies

Paper towes

Razor blades

Toilet paper

Baby diapers

Garbage bags


1 Sec. 10(a), Fair Packaging and Labeling Act

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  1. I have a friend who is interested in selling her wax melts online, but she is from the UK, and almost half of her potential customers are in the USA. Where can I find more information for her about laws regarding labeling her wax melts? I’m pretty sure that is considered a consumer commodity, but I’m not sure if they’re are specific laws regarding imports.

    1. Author

      Yes, wax melts are simply consumer commodities and, to the best of my knowledge, don’t have any special labeling requirements. The do require the basic label information – product name, identity (what it is), net content (weight), and business name and address.

  2. I agree completely with your definition of “Consumer Commodity” however, the term itself is one used when shipping regulated material (hazardous items, such as aerosols, perfumes, nail polish etc.) and is defined in CFR 49 as such. My company ships both regulated material (as I just described) and non-regulated material such as soap, hand lotion etc. My question is, is it technically permissible to use Consumer Commodity on a Bill of Lading (knowing that the Carriers recognize this as a “regulated material” term?

  3. I sort of left out the last part of my question. Is it permissible to use “Consumer Commodity” in Commerce related documentation (BOL’s) for both regulated material, as well as for non-regulated material, knowing the the carriers (UPS, Fed-Ex, etc., immediately recognize this as a haz designation per CFR 49?)?

    1. Author

      The definition of “consumer commodity” I used is from Title 16 Commerce and Trade (16 CFR 500.1459(a).

      I think what you are looking at are the definitions and regulations covered in Title 49 Transportation. 49 CFR, specifically 49CFR 171.8, defines a “consumer commodity” as:

      A material that is packaged and distributed in a form intended or suitable for sale through retail sales agencies or instrumentalities for consumption by individuals for purposes of personal care or household use. This term also includes drugs and medicines.

      It’s a slightly different definition that is used for transportation purposes. Apparently there are some pretty specific packaging requirements for consumer commodities that are being shipped. I found the regulations at Cornell Law: 49 CFR 173.167.

      I also found some discussion about a change in shipping of certain consumer commodities that went into effect January 1st. This certainly isn’t my area of expertise, but this page, ORM-D Phase-out Ends Dec. 31, 2020, might help.

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