The Scientific Advisory Committee of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) has approved six new alternative testing methods aimed at reducing the need for certain cosmetics ingredients to be tested on animals.
The move is a step closer towards fulfilling REACH requirements, which aim to complete outlaw all animal testing within the personal care industry within the next two to three years.
The new tests, which can be applied to a variety of ingredients, chemicals and drugs, use cell cultures rather than animals to establish the toxicity of cancer drugs and identify contamination.
But as well as reducing the overall number of tests carried out animals within the EU, the committee also claims that the new tests will increase accuracy and ultimately consumer safety.
The role of ECVAM to replace, refine and reduce methods of animal testing for cosmetics, drugs and chemicals. Tests validated by ECVAM must be approved by its Scientific Advisory Committee, composed of representatives of the 25 member states, academia, industry and animal welfare organizations before they can be used in labs across Europe.
Five of the new tests address the issue of bacteria, which are a common problem in a range of products, from cosmetic ingredients to drugs and other chemicals.
Although the immune system safeguards against bacteria, it cannot distinguish between live and dead bacteria, and will react also against dead bacteria or part of them. This means that although an ingredient may be sterilised, it might not necessarily free from all traces of bacteria which can have side-affects.
The new method uses human immune cells grown in the laboratory, which can detect bacteria just as the human immune system does. This test will not only reduce the number of animals used in EU labs - currently estimated to be 200,000 per year, but also the costs of testing.
The work of ECVAM is funded from the EU's Research Framework Programme, with support from Member States, industry and animal welfare organisations.