Alternatives to animal testing developing, focus on cruelty-free may be holding back

By Ravyn Cullor

- Last updated on GMT

The research team reviewed the modern literature on NAMs and phasing out animal testing. © Getty Images - warrengoldswain
The research team reviewed the modern literature on NAMs and phasing out animal testing. © Getty Images - warrengoldswain

Related tags Animal testing Animal testing alternatives Animal testing ban Cosmetics testing safety assessment

Animal testing was the 20th-century answer to product safety issues, and as the 21st-century cosmetics industry turns away from it some replacements are still up in the air.

A research team out of the UK, José Silva et al., recently published a review in Cosmetics of alternatives to animal testing, along with the history of animal testing and the context for the move away from it.

According to José Silva et al., animal testing in consumer packaged goods was largely initiated by a 1936 report in the US covering injury and death caused by food and drug products. To promote safety for consumers, the US legally required animal testing, which also set off opposition from the animal rights movement.

In 2009 the EU started to phase out animal testing in cosmetics, and since then José Silva et al. said, in cosmetics, the term “New Approach Methodology”​ or NAM has described alternatives to animal testing in assessing chemical hazards and risk assessment.

However, José Silva et al. said a focus by brands and consumers on the optics of recognized non-animal testing terms like “cruelty-free”​ has taken precedence over NAMs implementation in the industry.

“Since the 2013 cut-off date for the phasing-out of animal testing, no novel compounds for exclusive use in cosmetics have been announced to the EU market,”​ José Silva et al. said. “To remove this barrier, additional approaches and out-of-the-box thinking for the safety evaluation of new chemicals are needed.”

Major drivers behind move away from animal testing

José Silva et al. said the three main drivers behind the push to phase out animal testing are:

  1. Ethical considerations

  2. The lack of effective extrapolation

  3. Economic efficiency

The preeminent scientists in discussing a move to NAMs as a value proposition were Russel and Burch, who the research team said primarily focused their writing on the scientific limitations of animal models and the cost of keeping live animals for experimentation.

With dose-related toxicity or other types of extrapolation required to get human-relevant information from animal testing comes a significant source of limitations, José Silva et al. said.

“In a recent analysis of 100 systematic reviews on animal experiments, 75% of reviews were found to present significant limitations when trying to predict human disease outcomes or safety through animal data,”​  José Silva et al. said.

Though Russel and Burch did not want to focus on the ethical considerations, José Silva et al. said, starting with animal rights advocate Henry Spira in the early 1980s, it has been a major incentive in phasing out animal testing.

As ethical concerns have gripped consumers, the research team said they’ve also led to another driver in some markets, animal testing bans.

“The response coming from collaborations between scientists, NGOs, policymakers, and the cosmetics industry has led to what is now the constantly evolving field of New Approach Methodologies,”​ José Silva et al. said.

NAMs limits and distractions by cruelty-free push

José Silva et al. said there are still several testing areas NAMs are not able to address at this point, including:

  • Acute toxicity

  • Repeated dose toxicity

  • Reproductive toxicity

  • Carcinogenicity

  • A major part of toxicokinetics

However, the research team also said skin sensitization testing was able to create a new risk assessment framework to achieve a “cruelty-free” ​status. Other examples of modern NAMs include silico computational models and the combination of data derived from multiple endpoints.

“Despite the rapid growth that the field of regulatory toxicology has seen over the past decade, public opinion continues to focus on the absence of animal testing, rather than the development of methods that can help to discontinue it across multiple industries,”​ José Silva et al. said.

In order to gain development and regulatory acceptance of NAMs, they said a focus on public awareness may be necessary.

Source: Cosmetics

Cosmetics 2022, 9(5), 90;

Title: A State-of-the-Art Review on the Alternatives to Animal Testing for the Safety Assessment of Cosmetics

Author: R. José Silva et al.

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