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Cosmetics animal testing ban 'pointless' due to Echa's 'undermining' – NGO

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Echa is interpreting EU bans on animal testing in cosmetics so narrowly that it renders them pointless, an NGO has said.

Cruelty Free International’s (CFI) criticism coincides with the launch of its petition calling on Echa to stop animal testing under REACH for chemicals used in cosmetics.

A testing ban on finished cosmetic products has been in force in the EU since 2004, while one on ingredients or a combination of them has applied since 2009.

Also in 2009 a marketing ban came into force for all human health effects with the exception of repeated-dose toxicity, reproductive toxicity and toxicokinetics.The ban extended to these in 2013, irrespective of the availability of alternative non-animal tests.

A year later, the EU executive and Echa clarified animal test bans under REACH, saying they do not apply to testing required for non-cosmetic uses of substances under REACH, exposure of workers or environmental endpoints.

The NGO said it is increasingly concerned Echa is ignoring EU legislation and that the agency "sidesteps" bans by labelling animal tests "as being for worker rather than consumer safety".

Animal tests required for UV filter octocrylene and preservative triclosan, both "used exclusively in cosmetics", are recent examples of Echa’s disregard for the cosmetic bans, it said.

It is now urging cosmetics companies, decision makers and supporters across Europe to sign a petition calling for Echa to:

  • stop asking for the testing immediately; and
  • ensure the "ground-breaking" EU cosmetics testing bans are correctly implemented.

Furthermore, CFI said the agency’s interpretation of the cosmetics Regulation poses a risk to the future of cruelty-free cosmetics in Europe. Many such brands "are no longer able to reformulate their products because of the steady creep of regulatory testing", it said.

However, the Leaping Bunny certification, which tells consumers the company is free from animal testing, "remains stronger" than EU cosmetic testing regulations. It is the only certification that checks every step of the supply chain for animal testing, requiring a supplier monitoring system and regular independent audits, CFI said.

Echa response

In its comments to Chemical Watch on 15 January, Echa said its work "has followed the Commission’s interpretation" of the interface between REACH and cosmetics regulations that was further clarified in 2014.

It has also published a factsheet to help industry "understand their obligation" and that, since then, the process has run "relatively smoothly".

"We work hard to try to minimise any unnecessary testing on animals in all aspects of our work," the agency said. REACH states, it added, that "animal testing should always be the last resort", when data is "not available from any other sources".

Campaigns

Last year, CFI drew up a six-point plan for "more humane chemicals regulation". It followed a 2017 statement that the Commission and Echa's demands for such testing contradict the cosmetics Regulation.

Both CFI and NGO People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) UK have filed complaints to the European ombudsman on the issue. In 2016 Peta asked – without success – for the joint statement by Echa and the Commission to be withdrawn.

In the meantime, CFI is waiting for a reply to its complaint over the EU executive’s failure to regularly update the list of alternatives to animal tests.

And a year ago MEPs backed plans to establish a global ban on animal testing for cosmetics by 2023.

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