Cosmetics regulation: navigating the minefield

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Personal care, Animal testing, Cosmetics directive

European cosmetics regulation has long been a minefield of grey areas and contradictions, a point that is underlined by the struggle to ban the testing of cosmetics ingredients on animals.

Some would argue that European regulations for personal care are more concrete for manufacturers to follow, particularly compared to North America, where the responsibility is very much in the hands of the manufacturers.

However, in Europe, you only have to look at attempts to introduce a total ban on the testing of cosmetic ingredients on animals to find out where the shortfalls are.

The Cosmetics Directive has been updated on numerous occasions in recent years with the objective of forging a total ban on all testing of animals in any aspect of personal care development.

The ultimate goal is to completely ban all forms of animal testing in cosmetic and personal care manufacturing by 2013.

Banning animal testing for ingredients

Although the testing of finished products on animals has long been banned in Europe, currently a wide range of testing is still allowed on animals for research into cosmetics ingredients.

According to an article appearing in today's issue of CosmeticsDesign-Europe, objectives to find alternative non-animal testing to genotoxicity, ocular irritancy and acute toxicity testing by March 2009 are not going to be met.

The second goal is to ban all other forms of animal testing – including photoallergeny, reprotoxicity and carcinongenecity by 2013.

What has left cosmetics manufacturers even more confused is the fact that the new REACH regulation means that, with permission from the European Chemicals Agency, testing on animals can be carried out if there is insufficient research data available – going against the objectives of the Cosmetics Directive.

Goal posts ever-widening

Faced with the fact that the goal posts set out by the Cosmetics Directive to ban animal testing seem to be forever widening, it seems that the most pressing issue with respect to personal care regulation in Europe still seems to be a long way off being nailed.

So what is really creating this problem? Regulators would say it is personal care manufacturers dragging their feet with regards to developing alternatives to animal testing for ingredients.

Ultimately it is in the manufacturers’ best interest to develop alternatives as quickly as possible, they claim.

Manufacturers say that they don’t have the time or resources to devote to developing what are often highly complicated and time-consuming alternative testing methods. The regulatory authorities counter this argument with the claim that it is not the scientist, merely the regulatory authority.

Deadlock and late delivery

All this results in deadlock and the late delivery of animal testing alternatives.

Animal rights protestors would argue that it is the animals that are the victims in this scenario, but looking at the broader picture it may be the consumer who is more affected.

After all, given the choice of buying a product that had been tested on animals and one that was not, the vast majority of consumers would consider the response to be a no-brainer.

The solution is obvious. Speed up the research and development of animal testing alternatives, but it seems that with the current situation, this article is likely to be far from the last to be written on the subject.

Related topics: Formulation & Science

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