You wouldn't buy sunscreen without first checking the SPF label. You probably even check the nutrition facts on your food from time to time. And soon, the Environmental Protection Agency hopes, consumers will come to expect similar labels on used cars, insect repellents, and a host of other products.
"It is very much a concerted effort on the agency's part," said Jim Jones, who helped design EPA's insect repellent labels that debuted Wednesday. "We're really trying to figure out where we can provide information in a manner that is easily accessible to the average consumer and trusting that the American public makes informed decisions."
The agency is seeking public feedback on its new repellent labels, which tell consumers if a product keeps away mosquitoes or ticks, and for how long. That information isn't new, Jones said, but previous standards made it inconsistently placed and "densely communicated."
Attempts to standardize and simplify product information, EPA admits, are modeled after the precedent set by the Food and Drug Administration. "We used the SPF model," Jones said of the latest label. In the design stage, EPA sought the advice of the FDA, which also has been requiring nutrition labels on packaged foods since 1990. "The coordination with FDA was largely about learning from their experience," Jones said. "What works with consumers? What doesn't work?"