Anti-animal testing organisation accuses EC of weakening testing ban

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, European commission, Animal testing

The European Commission has been accused of unlawfully weakening the legislation to end animal testing for cosmetics ingredients by the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE).

Last week, the Commission invited comments on a Draft Technical Report that contained details of the progress that has been made on alternative tests, as well as estimates for when certain animal tests will be replaceable with non-animal alternatives.

According to the ECEAE, the conclusions of this report are ‘scientifically over-conservative’ and lack the understanding of the ‘creative potential of non-animal methods.’

“The working groups appear to have approached the question of alternatives in a purely scientific and mechanistic sense, rather than the practical and regulatory sense​,” said Dr Katy Taylor, Scientific Co-ordinator for ECEAE member group BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection).

“Animal tests do not fully represent the human reaction and are notoriously unpredictive and yet alternatives are being required to not only equal this unsatisfactory state of affairs but exceed the animal tests on both accounts.

"Whilst this is obviously desirable, for the purpose of the Cosmetic Directive this is simply raising the bar too high and will unnecessarily delay the implementation of alternatives,”​ she told

In addition, the ECEAE is accusing the European Commission of altering the legislation that established when certain tests should be replaced.

Staggered marketing ban

Under the Cosmetics Directive of 2009 there is both a testing ban in the European Union (a ban on testing cosmetics ingredients on animals) and a marketing ban (a ban on marketing products that contain ingredients that have been tested on animals elsewhere).

However, the marketing ban was introduced in a staggered fashion, depending on the test.

Most endpoints, for example skin and eye irritancy, were included in the 2009 ban, but some, including repeated-dose toxicity (including skin sensitisation and carcinogenicity), reproductive toxicity and toxicokinetics, were scheduled for a ban in 2013.

However, the ECEAE claims that skin sensitisation and carcinogenicity were not ​included in the original list of endpoints for the 2013 ban.

“… the EC appears to be attempting to weaken the Directive by having inexplicably included two additional animal tests - skin sensitization and carcinogenicity tests – which were not included in the marketing ban exception and which now have to meet the non-animal alternative before the marketing ban is implemented,”​ the ECEA said in a statement.

According to ECEAE, these two endpoints were included in the earlier ban, and should not have been delayed. The fact that there are no alternatives to replace them, should not affect the ban, the ECAE said.

This was echoed in a statement from Dr Taylor who said: We should not forget that the testing bans were an ethical decision made by the European Union because the suffering of animals was considerable and NEW cosmetics are not considered essential. There are thousands of existing ingredients from which to develop new products.”

However, Colipa, the European cosmetics trade association, claims these endpoints were always set for a 2013 ban.

"These endpoints were already identified by the Commission in a staff working document in 2004, namely skin sensitisation, subacute and subchronic toxicity, toxicokinetics, carcinogenicity and reproductive toxicity,"​ Colipa said.


Animal tests not fully replaceable by 2013

None of the endpoints, including carcinogenicity and skin sensitisation, are likely to be completely replaceable by 2013, according to the working groups who authored the Technical Report, with estimates for skin sensitisation falling between 2017 and 2019, and for reproductive toxicity in not less than 10 years.

More details about the Draft Technical Report can be found here​, and the report itself accessed here​.

No one at the European Commission was available for comment at the time of publishing, but expects to interview the spokesperson for this issue early next week.

Related topics: Formulation & Science

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