Who Is Responsible For Safe Products?


As members of the supply chain, distributors and suppliers are responsible for putting only safe and compliant products in the market. Distributors must protect their customer’s brand as if it were their own. Suppliers must ensure compliance with all regulations and oversee all factories. Both parties must work as partners to ensure only safe products are introduced to the market: therefore, communication is vital with the distribution chain. Learn the questions each side needs to ask of their client.

Distributors: What To Ask Your End Buyer

Get a handle on who will receive, who will or may use the products, and where geographically the products will be given out.

• Product Recipients. To whom will these products be given? Will children be recipients?

• Where Distributed. Where will the products be distributed? Some states maintain product safety standards and require testing that is in addition to federal statutes.

• Imprint. What kind of logo do you intend to use? General-use items that are imprinted with logos appealing to children could be considered children’s products because of that design.

Distributors: What To Tell Your Supplier

Children As Recipients. Based on conversations with your end buyer, tell your supplier if the products will be given to children at a given event or might be given to children based on their being kept and used over time.

Thinking Beyond The Regulations. The product might be a “general use” (non-children’s) item, but if you know from your conversation with the end buyer that the product is being distributed to children, let your supplier know. General-use items distributed to children do not necessarily need to comply with CPSIA regulations, but that type of conversational transparency is important for the supplier, distributor and salesperson.

Distributors: What To Ask Your Supplier

• Children’s Products. Does the supplier consider the item to be a children’s product? Why or why not?

• Applicable Regulations What regulations apply?

• Compliance With Regulations

  • Does the product comply with all applicable regulatory requirements?
  • How has compliance been determined?
  • Request a copy of all related test reports.
  • Request a copy of the General Conformity Certificate (GCC) or Children’s Product Certificate (CPC).
  • Were all products made at the same factory?
  • Were all products made from the same lot of materials?
  • Will the modifications (e.g., imprint inks) you plan to make to the product affect the product’s compliance?

• Tracking Labels. If it’s a children’s product, will there be a tracking label? What does the tracking label information mean?

Suppliers: What To Be Prepared To Provide

Because suppliers have the most in-depth knowledge of the product, they should be prepared to provide all product safety information to the distributor including:

• Answers to the above questions

• Copies of GCCs or CPCs and test reports

• Explanation of tracking label existence or exclusion

Purchase Order Best Practice

Create fields on all purchase orders that require answers to the following questions:

• Is this a children’s product?

• Will children be recipients of this product?

If the answer to both of these questions is yes, it is important to note clearly on the purchase orders: This product is intended for distribution to children. It must comply with all applicable federal and state regulations.

When Is A Distributor Also A Manufacturer?

Importing. Under federal law, an importer is considered to be a manufacturer; therefore, a distributor who sources direct is a manufacturer. In such a case, the distributor takes on all the testing and labeling responsibilities required of a supplier.

Apparel Decorating. A distributor who uses a contract decorator (i.e., for imprinting apparel) would also be considered a manufacturer. In this case, the distributor would have the same obligations as the supplier in the eyes of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Final Note

There are distinct regulatory differences between children’s products (i.e., intended primarily for use by children 12 years of age and younger) and toys/child-care articles. Generally speaking, the testing requirements for toys/child-care articles are more significant.

This information is being furnished by PPAI for education and informational purposes only. The Association makes no warranties or representations about specific dates, coverage or application. Consult with appropriate legal counsel about the specific application of the law to your business and products.

Anne Lardner-Stone is director of public affairs for PPAI.


>>Boost Your Product Safety IQ This information is from one of 11 best-practice guides available on PPAI’s website—a rich source of information, documents, articles, guides, presentations and on-demand webinars about product safety, responsibility and compliance. Find additional best practices, FAQs and more by clicking on Inside PPAI and Product Safety at www.ppai.org.


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