What's this symbol on my shampoo bottles?

While lying in the tub and idly reading the back of the shampoo bottle (“Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone, you say? Well I never”) I noticed an odd symbol on the label. It looks like a line drawing of a pot such as would contain face cream or whatever, with the lid removed and sitting at a jaunty angle just above the pot. In the middle of the pot is the code “12M”.

Further investigation revealed the same symbol on the bubble-bath bottle, also the shower gel, conditioner and various of my girlfriend’s hair products. All are in plastic bottles, but made by various different companies. Codes include 12M, 13M and 36M. I didn’t find any with a letter other than M.

So what do these codes mean? The symbol is fairly close to (but separate from) the recycling “arrows” symbol, and there’s no mention of the standard plastic recycling codes (PP, PETE, LDPE and so on), but I’m wondering if it’s some kind of special European Toiletries Container Recycling code, or something.

Anyone know?

Use-by date, IIRC

Whoops, should’ve added, M=months

Presumably not intended for the consumer to understand, then, seeing as there’s no way of knowing when it was manufactured?

Explained in this .pdf file. It’s a “Period After Opening” symbol, the M meaning months when the product is still useable. It’s to be in line with new EU guidelines since March 2005, brought in for cosmetic lines.

Once again the SDMB amazes me. I thought that was pretty obscure, as far as obscure questions go, and there’s full chapter and verse in a little over half an hour!

A better link. (That .pdf’s a bit of a worry. It’s a download.)

Thanks. I must say it seems like one of those regulations that’s mostly there to give the legislators something to do rather than actually to be of use to anyone. I’m pretty sure if you asked a random sample of people what that symbol meant, most would not have a clue. And how many people read their shampoo bottle anyway (except people like me)?

Just tells you to hurry up and use all that shampoo within the 12 month period, I guess (it does sound daft, though. You open up a bottle of shampoo – and you’re expected to remember how many months have passed since you opened it? That’s the EU looking after you folk, I guess …)