Ethical consumers should be celebrating today (11th March) when Europe introduces the final phase of its ban on animal testing for cosmetics and a partial marketing ban on cosmetics animal tested outside the EU1. However, the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research23 warn that many companies could still exploit loopholes and poor enforcement. Consumers risk being misled unless action is taken, the organisations say.
11 March 2009Ethical consumers should be celebrating today (11th March) when Europe introduces the final phase of its ban on animal testing for cosmetics and a partial marketing ban on cosmetics animal tested outside the EU1. However, the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research2 and Uncaged3 warn that many companies could still exploit loopholes and poor enforcement. Consumers risk being misled unless action is taken, the organisations say.
Although companies will no longer be allowed to test ingredients on animals for cosmetics purposes, there is little to stop them using ingredients tested on animals as if for another purpose, effectively hiding cosmetics animal testing under a different regulatory heading. This would be particularly easy for companies producing cosmetics in addition to other products across multiple sectors such as household cleaners and pharmaceuticals4.
There is also evidence that member states may have failed to implement sufficiently robust systems to enforce the bans. UK regulation5 leaves it to local Trading Standards Authorities (TSA) to check that animal-tested products are not being sold in breach of the new law. However, when contacted by the Dr Hadwen Trust and Uncaged, authorities appeared ill-equipped for the job and unwilling to actively investigate potentially illegal animal testing.
“It’s a real concern that some companies may continue their animal testing ways by essentially disguising it as testing for non-cosmetics purposes.” says Emily McIvor, Policy Director at the Dr Hadwen Trust. “There is a range of advanced non-animal tests available and many thousands of established cosmetics ingredients to choose from. So there is no excuse for companies continuing to animal test by exploiting regulatory loopholes, but it would be naïve to think that that won’t happen in some cases.”
“Expecting local councils to check for illegally animal-tested products in their stores is completely unrealistic,” says Dr Dan Lyons, Director of Uncaged. “Local authorities can’t enforce the law properly as they don’t have the proper resources or expertise and the system itself places protecting companies before informing consumers. Councils are unwilling to investigate unless they are given evidence of illegal animal testing, evidence that would only be revealed by them conducting an investigation. It’s a ridiculous catch-22 situation.”
Over 5,500 animals were officially used in EU Cosmetics tests in 20056, although more animals are likely to have been used if tests are already being commissioned ‘for other purposes’.
What animals are used in cosmetics tests in Europe?
Total animals officially used in EU 2005: 5,571
Species: mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits
Types of tests: skin sensitization and irritation, eye irritation, toxicity – acute lethal, chronic, developmental and mutagenicity
Countries: France (5,496 animals) and Spain (75 animals)
How the ban works:
The 7th Amendment to the Cosmetics Directive, agreed in 2003, introduced a staggered testing and sales ban.
Phase 1: September 11th 2004
a) A ban on animal testing of finished cosmetic products in the EU
b) An EU ban on the sale of cosmetic products and ingredients tested on animals outside the EU, where accepted non-animal tests exist in the EU.
Phase 2: March 11th 2009
a) A ban on animal testing of cosmetic ingredients in the EU.
b) An EU ban on the sale of cosmetic products and ingredients tested on animals outside the EU for all but three test areas, regardless of the availability of alternative non-animal tests.
Phase 3: 2013
The complete sales ban for the remaining three test areas (reproductive toxicity, repeat dose toxicity, and toxicokinetics).
1 The 7th Amendment to the 1976 Cosmetics Directive (Directive 2003/15/EC) was adopted on 27 February 2003.
2 The Dr Hadwen Trust is the UK’s leading non-animal medical research charity funding exclusively non-animal techniques to replace animal experiments.
3 Uncaged is a leading anti-vivisection campaign group tel: 0114 272 2220
4 For example, Unilever produces cosmetics, personal care and household cleaners and Procter & Gamble produce cosmetics, personal care, household cleaners and prescription drugs.
5 Under Regulation 16.1(i) of the Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 2008:1284, cosmetic products manufacturers must collate information on animal testing in Product Information Packs (PIDs) which are available to local Trading Standards Authorities. The Dr Hadwen Trust/Uncaged contacted five local authorities (Bristol City, Gloucester, Hampshire, Hertfordshire and Sheffield in [insert date]. Of those, one council mistakenly believed it did not have access to PIDs, four admitted never having actively requested or investigated animal testing data and one council further revealed it would only investigate if it had prior evidence of non-compliance but this would only be obtained by conducting an investigation.
6 Latest EU Commission statistics available relate to 2004. Only three countries – Denmark, Spain and France – admit the continuation of cosmetics animal testing, using mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits. The Commission admits that these statistics are unlikely to be reliable as a complete picture of current testing.