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Guidelines for Using the "Read the Label FIRST!" Symbol

All companies, groups, and individuals are welcome to use and distribute materials bearing the "reading person" symbol and message of the "Read the Label FIRST!" (RtLF!) campaign created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its partners in the Consumer Labeling Initiative (CLI). As part of that use, you are permitted to add your own brand or organization logo and contact information to materials already bearing both the RtLF! "reading person" and EPA "flower" or signature, or to create materials of your own using just the RtLF! "reading person" symbol, subject to the conditions specified in these guidelines.

For materials to carry the EPA "flower" or signature, they must go through the official Agency review and approval process. Although the RtLF! "reading person" symbol was also created by the EPA, it will be treated differently than the EPA signature, to be much more freely usable. The RtLF! "reading person" symbol is the product of a public interest partnership among EPA and many other groups, and to benefit the public good, we encourage everyone who has an interest in promoting label reading to use it, even if they were not part of the CLI before. EPA has established these basic guidelines for the use of the RtLF! mark in order to protect its public interest character, and the Agency will defend the mark by considering any inappropriate uses in violation of these guidelines as an infringement of the mark.

We hope that government, industry, and public interest groups will take full advantage of the work that went into the creation of the RtLF! campaign and "reading person" symbol to spread the importance of the label reading message. Label information is of vital importance on virtually every product in the marketplace today, from cleaners and pesticides to drugs, foods, paints, and glues. And as new products are developed constantly and old ones are refined, it becomes all the more important that we understand how to use them properly. Our habit is to assume that things that look similar all work the same way, and that things we've used before remain the same, even though they don't; reading the labels is the only way to do the right thing.


The purpose of the RtLF! campaign is to improve public health, safety, and the environment by encouraging people to read product label information and to follow label directions regarding product selection, use, precautions, storage, and disposal. The RtLF! "reading person" symbol can be used freely by any company, group, government agency, community, or individual to promote label reading as a means of improving health, safety, and the environment. It can be used in the context of any type of product - it is not limited to pesticides and household cleaners, although those were the focus of the CLI project - and it is as usable in the occupational context as in the consumer product one. It is not intended to imply any endorsement of specific companies or products by the EPA or by any of the other government, industry, or public interest groups which have together formed the CLI, and it must not be used in any way which would imply such endorsement. It must also not be used to denigrate any specific companies or products.

Companies and groups which desire to add their own logos and contact information to brochures and other materials which were produced by EPA and which already bear both the RtLF! "reading person" and EPA "flower" or signature, or which desire to produce their own independent RtLF! materials using only the RtLF! "reading person" symbol, must agree to abide by the following conditions:

  1. On materials which bear both the RtLF! "reading person" and EPA "flower" or signature, none of the existing text or imagery can be changed from the forms published by EPA through its website or in print, except that:
    • Companies and groups can add their own brand or organization logo to the panel where EPA's signature and the RtLF! symbol already appear.
    • Companies and groups can add their brand or organization logo and contact information, together with additional non-advertising-oriented safety and label-reading tips or other educational information specific to their products or mission, to the blank panel on the brochures and to similar reserved space in other materials. Any additional information provided on the blank panel must not imply either an endorsement or a condemnation of particular products or companies.

    If any other changes are made, the EPA "flower" or signature and reference to the material being a publication of the Consumer Labeling Initiative must be removed before printing and distribution of the revised materials.

  2. Companies using the RtLF! "reading person" symbol and related materials or making reference to their materials being related to the Consumer Labeling Initiative must abide by the principles and recommendations of the CLI as reflected in the CLI Phase II Report, which is available on the EPA CLI website
  3. Groups may use the RtLF! "reading person" symbol and message freely on materials of their own design, including in product advertising, providing that the message:
    • does not convey EPA or CLI endorsement of or preference for a brand, product, or company; does not denigrate or convey condemnation by EPA or CLI of a brand, product, or company; and
    • does not contradict or conflict with the principles and recommendations of the CLI as reflected in the CLI Phase II Report.

    Groups are not required to obtain prior Agency approval for the use of the RtLF! "reading person" symbol on RtLF! materials of their own design. However, groups may not use the EPA "flower" or signature on RtLF! materials of their own design, nor claim their materials to be publications of the Consumer Labeling Initiative, unless they specifically apply for and receive prior express written permission from the Agency for use of the Agency image and signature and CLI publication label following Agency review and approval of the materials.


Companies can use the RtLF! "reading person" symbol on product labels, in advertising, in store displays, in employee and sales outlet training programs, and in their product informational and promotional material, providing that it is used only to encourage label reading. It must not be used to imply that, for example, "If you read the label first, you'll know that our product is better!," or "Look for the RtLF! symbol to know that you're getting the right product!," or "Companies that put the RtLF! symbol on their products care about you and the environment more than other companies do!" Those would imply endorsement and convert the symbol to a meaning it does not have, and would thus be violations of the EPA's service mark registration.

Companies using the RtLF! materials prepared by EPA and the CLI partnership can put their brand and/or organizational logos, contact information, and additional product-related health, safety, and environmental tips on the EPA materials without having to remove the EPA "flower" or signature or the statement that the material is a publication of the Consumer Labeling Initiative. A company using a disinfectant cleaner brand name and logo on the brochures could include product-specific tips such as where or where not to use the particular product, for example, or could emphasize the procedure to follow to achieve disinfection. Advertising or promotional claims made on the materials, however, would cross the line into implied EPA and/or CLI endorsement of the product or company, and would thus violate the restrictions on the permitted use of the EPA "flower" or signature. Statements denigrating or implying EPA or CLI condemnation of products or companies would also not be proper. Statements encouraging people to use particular types of products, or to seek out certain types of products and avoid others, would cross the line into misuse. Thus, for example, it would not be appropriate to use the back panel to tell people always to avoid products marked with a "Danger" signal word, or to provide on that panel "do-it-yourself" recipes advising people to concoct their own products. Giving factual information on the meaning or use of label terms such as signal words or ingredients, on the other hand, would be fine.

Government and other groups can use the RtLF! "reading person" symbol freely in the promotion of programs that relate to the importance of label reading, including worker safety, container recycling, proper product use and disposal, public health, children's health, pet safety, storm water and drinking water programs, and other environmental concerns. The RtLF! "reading person" symbol cannot be used to promote the use of one product over another, however - for example, it may not be used on materials which indicate that one product is safer than another to health or the environment. That gets into product endorsement issues, which EPA cannot do or allow others to do in its name.

If you have questions about a particular use or appearance of the RtLF! "reading person" symbol or the EPA "flower" or signature in connection with RtLF! materials, please feel free to contact the EPA CLI Team.

The EPA/CLI "reading person" symbols:

grayscale Read the Label First logo

color Read the Label First logo

The EPA "flower" and signature:

EPA flower and signature

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