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Unilever US to disclose fragrance ingredients to consumers

Products - Dove soap

Unilever US has announced plans to provide consumers with information about specific fragrance ingredients, used in its personal care products.

The new disclosure initiative will cover such brands as Dove, Pond’s, Nexxus, Toni & Guy, TRESemme, St Ives, Axe and Vaseline.

Unilever says it will expand its current product ingredient lists, available through its SmartLabel website and app, to include fragrance ingredients present in a product’s formulation above 0.01% (100 parts per million). Existing information provided by SmartLabel – under which consumers can view ingredient details for about 1,800 Unilever food and personal care products – lists "fragrance" but does not provide specific ingredient details.

The information expansion is aimed to be completed by the end of 2018.

The company has also announced plans to launch a webpage called What’s In Our Products. This will provide additional information, including its approach to developing safe products, explanation of ingredient types and answers to common questions on SmartLabel.

Several of Unilever’s US personal care products are voluntarily labelled to meet the EU’s fragrance allergen labeling Regulation. This will be expanded to the full US personal care portfolio, it said.

Regarding the announcement, Unilever North America president, Kees Kruythoff, said that transparency "is fundamental to running a sustainable business.

"Through SmartLabel and What’s in our Products, we are meeting the needs of our consumers who are increasingly mobile, online, and actively searching for products that are made responsibly and sustainably.”

Changing personal care market

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) said that Unilever’s initiative “could dramatically alter the personal care and fragrance markets”.

EWG president and co-founder Ken Cook called it “a game-changer” and said the NGO expects other major companies to follow suit.

 “It may not happen overnight, but Unilever’s watershed actions will place enormous pressure on the rest of the market to respond and make it very difficult for other companies to shield their fragrance from consumers,” he added. 

US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) called the plans “a victory for consumer product transparency”. In a press release, it called on other personal care manufacturers, like Procter & Gamble and L’Oréal, to follow Unilever’s lead.

But the NGO criticised its policy of only listing fragrance ingredients in a product’s formulation above 0.01%, saying that it should provide full fragrance disclosure to consumers.

“For certain chemicals like endocrine-disrupting compounds, low level exposures have been associated with serious health effects," it said. 

A Unilever spokesperson told Chemical Watch that the company had worked with fragrance suppliers to establish the threshold level. “To give some perspective, 0.01%  is also the threshold level the EU set for fragrance allergen labelling for rinse-off cosmetic products," they said.

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