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Animal testing ban: European Ombudsman examines claims against EU bodies

By Lucy Whitehouse + , 27-Sep-2016

Animal testing ban: European Ombudsman examines claims against EU bodies

The official body responsible for investigating complaints about EU institutions is considering a complaint against the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) relating to the ban on animal testing for cosmetics ingredients.

The complaint, put forward by animal rights group PETA, claims that the ECHA and the European Commission have been encouraging an interpretation of the law that allows continued animal testing under certain circumstances for cosmetics chemicals.

PETA has put forward that the bodies are using the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation to justify this, which the animal rights group has called “a shameful move”, saying that it “violates both the Cosmetics and REACH regulations”.

At the present time, the European Ombudsman has yet to indicate whether PETA’s claims can be substantiated, and is currently looking into the case to examine the weight of the allegations. When approached for comment, the ECHA said it has not received any new inquiries from the European Ombudsman.

Conflicting regulation?

The ECHA told ComseticsDesign that PETA has contacted both the ECHA and the European Commission during the summer on advice published on its website relating to chemicals that require testing under both REACH and Cosmetics regulations.

The article outlines instances where substances that are used in cosmetics may need to undergo animal testing, noting “the testing and marketing bans in the Cosmetics Regulation do not apply to testing required for environmental endpoints, exposure of workers and non-cosmetic uses of substances under REACH.”

It details these exceptions in more depth:

  • Registrants of substances that are exclusively used in cosmetics may not perform animal testing to meet the information requirements of the REACH human health endpoints, with the exception of tests that are done to assess the risks to workers exposed to the substance.
  • Registrants of substances that are used for a number of purposes, and not solely in cosmetics, are permitted to perform animal testing, as a last resort, for all human health endpoints.
  • Registrants are permitted to perform animal testing, as a last resort, for all environmental endpoints.

PETA has denounced this advice, however, stating that it undermines the testing ban on cosmetics ingredients, and is “misleading to EU citizens and consumers.”

With potentially thousands of animals’ lives at stake, we’re hopeful that the Ombudsman will take our view that the authorities have gone beyond their remit to interpret and apply the law. The purpose of the Cosmetics Regulation, which aims to ensure the safety of cosmetics products and ingredients using only humane, non-animal methods, must be maintained,” it states.

Next steps

According to the European Ombudsman, its analysis of the case will be completed this week, at which point it will decide whether any evidence justifies it taking the inquiry forward.

PETA, the complainant, has been informed that their case is admissible. Following this procedural step, the case handler is currently examining the substance of the allegations made by PETA,” the body explains.

Depending on the outcome of this analysis (which should be completed this week), we will then decide whether it is necessary to ask the institutions concerned – ECHA and the European Commission – about the issues raised by PETA.