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EU pledges to protect its cosmetic consumers

By Simon Pitman , 03-Jul-2006

Following a presentation at the Cosmetics Business Summit in Brussels on Friday, European Commission Günter Verheugen has pledged to protect and honour its consumers through three main channels - REACH, the end of animal testing and improving the quality of regulation.

In his speech Verheugen first considered the implications of REACH, stressing that the ruling's second reading is now scheduled for the first half of 2007, if all negotiations go smoothly.

Stressing that the cosmetics industry was a downstream user of chemicals, he said that the industry was set to greatly benefit from the ruling because it would mean an improved information-flow of safety data for ingredients, in turn helping to make safety assessment for finished products less complicated.

He added that the Commission was now working towards the implementation of REACH, stressing that increased co-operation of chemical suppliers was essential in the goal towards achieving implementation.

However, he also stressed that increased co-operation must not lead to the chemicals industry hiding crucial information from downstream users.Another key issue to implementation will be the importation of chemical substances and its regulation. Although stressing that the ruling is not trying to set up a 'fortress Europe', Verheugen said that the same laws must apply to all companies, whether they are in the EU or not.

Moving on to the subject of animal testing, Verheugen said, "I am aware that the animal testing regime - as introduced for cosmetics in 2003 - poses a significant burden on industry. But I am convinced that it is justified, because it reflects our political and ethical obligations.

"However the Commission does not leave industry to take this on alone."

He went on to explain that €65m had been spent on funding the research and validation of alternative methods since 2001, stating that this kind of funding level would be maintained until sufficient alternatives are in place that the testing of cosmetics ingredients on animals can be totally outlawed.

Although no date has been specified, EU executives have indicated that this position should be achieved by the end of 2008.

Regarding the area of competitiveness and better regulation, Verheugen confirmed his belief that the Commission is now more focused on ever about creating a an environment to ensure the growth and jobs within the industry, as outlined in the Lisbon agenda.

In order to ensure this, he stated that improving the legal framework in which companies have to work around was both easier and cheaper, thus allowing a higher level of regulation compliance.

In order to do this the Commission has outlined its commitment to review 220 community laws to be reviewed by 2009, including the Cosmetics Directive.

"Why? Because it is a good example of unnecessary complexity: it is a patchwork of 44 amendments without a clear set of definitions and without coherent terminology," he said. "Simplification is primarily a technical exercise. But we should profit from this occasion to do a more thorough assessment of this legislation."

With the Cosmetics Directive now 30 years old it is crucial that it is updated to a reflecting a changing consumer landscape and an industry that is forever reinventing itself to keep up with the latest trends.The Cosmetics Directive is now 30 years old and in this time there have been a great deal of developments that should be addressed, including an ageing society.

"The Cosmetics Directive is 30 years old. During these 30 years there have been important developments in your sector: Today, we live in an ageing society with an increasing demand for 'high-tech cosmetics'. "

Summing up Verheugen said the topics he outlined aimed to bring about a greater level of business trust, faith in policy-makers and ultimately to win over consumer trust.

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