Unilever investing in alternatives to animal testing

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

Unilever investing in alternatives to animal testing

Related tags: Chemistry

As an ever-increasing number of countries make moves to end the testing of consumer products on animals, Unilever has partnered up with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop alternative testing strategies.

The partnership states it will work towards ‘groundbreaking’ scientific approaches to uncover testing alternatives, focusing on reducing the large timescales and costs currently attached to available alternative methods.  

The Unilever-EPA partnership aims to develop chemical safety testing and risk assessments which are much more relevant to humans than those options presently on the table, meaning Unilever’s strong personal care portfolio, including staple household brands such as Dove and Axe, is set to benefit keenly from the research.

With a long list of countries and regions now rejecting, or gearing up to reject, the use of animals in beauty testing (including most recently Canada, where a bill to that effect was introduced this summer), companies are increasingly investing in R&D for alternative methods; the Unilever-EPA alliance confirms this.

A new chemical toolkit

EPA and Unilever will develop a series of case studies based on chemicals of mutual interest, looking for more efficient and accurate safety testing for chemical-based products.

If we had robust scientific tools to accurately and rapidly predict exposures to chemicals at the cellular and molecular levels within the human body, this would be a huge step forward in being able to conduct safety risk assessments without using animal data,​” confirmed Julia Fentem, vice president of Unilever’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre.

The collaboration looks to uncover chemical elements previously missing from the automated, animal-free screening approach: they hope to introduce a better evaluation of the human biological pathways that can be affected, and consider the metabolism of the test chemicals in question.

A helping hand for the wider industry

If successful, the new methods and improved techniques devised and developed by the Unilever-EPA alliance could strongly boost the testing alternatives available to the broader beauty industry, and consumer goods industries more widely.

These methods could be used by both industry and governmental agencies to reduce the costs associated with safety testing and accelerate the pace of chemical risk assessment​,” Dr. Russell Thomas, director of EPA's National Center for Computational Toxicology, confirmed.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Animal Testing

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