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Canadian regulations say non-medical face masks for sale need a label

Click to play video 'Non-medical face masks for sale need to have a label' Non-medical face masks for sale need to have a label
WATCH ABOVE: Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many have come together to make masks — but for those selling them, they are required to have a label. Sarah Komadina explains why.

As more people around Alberta are wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Competition Bureau Canada is making an effort to educate those who make face masks on rules they should be following in the Textile Labelling Act.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw has said her recommendation is for Albertans to wear a mask if they are going somewhere where they will be two metres from another person.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Wearing non-medical masks will help others but not you, Tam says

The Bureau said businesses or artisans who are making and selling non-medical face masks need to also attach a removable label.

The label should say what the fibre composition is and who made it. This isn’t a new rule — it applies to all textile articles for sale. The label can be a sticker, hang tag, wrapper, etc., or it can be sewed on.

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Anyone guilty of an offence in the Textile Labelling Act could face a fine up to $5,000, but when it comes to non-medical face masks — right now, the focus is on education.

“This particularly being a new item in the market place, a lot of people (are) not understanding the rules and requirements,” Competition Bureau senior competition law officer Arthur Carson said.

“The whole idea is: (give) education to businesses, artisans, whoever may be selling these products to understand what their obligations are and to ensure that consumers get this information when purchasing these products.”

Wendy Zelmer in Edmonton, Alta., said her mom started making cloth masks to sell for $5 or $6, which mostly helps cover the cost of materials. Zelmer said adding labels just feels like too much.

“I don’t agree with the requirements, I think that people should be allowed to make homemade masks and sell them to people who want to buy them. If somebody wants a mask with all of the specifics, they have that option.

“If people have to start labelling the masks and there are specific government rules, then my mom said … she is going to stop making the masks.”

Zelmer said it’s also difficult to know exactly what the fibre composition on some of the fabric they purchased awhile ago.

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READ MORE: Public mask program to start in Alberta at the end of the month: Kenney

Patti Diemert from Calgary, Alta., who also makes masks, said she hasn’t had one customer ask for fibre composition, since she started making them earlier this year. Diemert said her masks are 100 per cent cotton, and she is happy to give that information to anyone who wants it.

Diemert also isn’t so keen on the idea of labelling every mask.

“I have little white stickers, I could stick on all the masks if I had to. But you know, the consumer is just going to rip them off and throw them in the garbage,” Diemert said.

“What’s the purpose?”

Carson said getting labels are inexpensive and the rule is in place to to allow consumers to make informed decisions.

“This information allows [consumers] to know what the fibre composition is, and as well, to know the dealer’s name and place of business. If they need to contact them for any issues or questions they may have regarding the face mask… they are able to contact the dealer,” Carson said.

READ MORE: Face masks as extra barrier to prevent spread of COVID-19 could become more common in Alberta

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There are exemptions to labelling requirements for items that are for:

  • donations
  • commercial or industrial enterprises
  • federal, provincial, municipal departments or agencies
  • public utilities
  • educational institutions
  • health care facilities
  • religious orders or organizations

Carson said the labels are more to control what is allowed in the market place, whereas when non-medical masks are bought for these places, it’s generally done in bulk. In the exempt cases, the purchaser should still have access to what the masks are made of.