Alternatives to animal testing - basics for non-scientists

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

Alternatives to animal testing - basics for non-scientists

Related tags Animal testing alternatives Animal testing European union

Wondering where to start with testing for safety and efficacy without any animal cruelty? We offer some insights.

Animal testing for cosmetics ingredients and products has been banned in Europe since 2013, and in the intervening years, efforts to create high quality testing alternatives have been a major focus.

Testing alternatives were a focus of one session at the recent Cosmetics Europe​ Annual Conference industry knowledge-sharing event in Brussels.

The speakers were:

  • Valérie Zuang , Scientific Officer, Directorate General Joint Research Centre, European Commission

  • Mirjam Luijten, Senior Research Scientist, National Institute of Public Health (RIVM), The Netherlands

  • Rob Taalman, Director Science and Research, Cosmetics Europe

Session highlights

Here are the key session highlights from the event, as compiled by CEAC organisers:

The session offered key insights for non-scientists into the use of alternative testing methods.

Moving away from animal testing is not just motivated by the EU Cosmetics Regulation – also from the scientific angle it makes sense, as toxicologists now understand much better how adverse effects from exposure to substances (natural or synthetic) come about.

Effects observed in animals are not always relevant for humans, therefore, testing substances in human derived cell cultures to predict unintended effects seems logic.

Another important element, of course, is ethics, and the 3Rs principle which dates already from 1959 and has been the basis for scientists to explore alternative ways for safety testing.


Relying on data from alternatives also needs a change in mindset from a box ticking

exercise into a fit for purpose hypothesis driven strategy for generating relevant data.

However, both testing in animals and in vitro has limitations and we will have to manage uncertainty as we will never be able to obtain 100% accurate prediction.

The proof is of course in the application of alternatives as to date there has not been a single regulatory dossier that has only relied on them.

But we are getting closer and case studies to test whether alternatives can do the job are on their way (CE LRSS).

These will show how far we are and what still needs to be done.

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