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US firm Claire’s removes products after FDA asbestos investigation

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US accessories and cosmetics retailer Claire’s has removed three products from its store shelves, following an investigation into asbestos contamination by the Food and Drug Administration.

The agency launched its investigation following 2017 reports of asbestos contamination in certain cosmetic products, sold by the retailers Claire’s and Justice (see box).

This week the FDA issued a warning to consumers not to buy the three products from Claire’s, after it confirmed that its test results found traces of asbestos.

The agency did so after the company "refused to comply with the FDA’s request, and the agency does not have authority to mandate a recall," it said.

A Claire’s spokesperson told Chemical Watch that "out of an abundance of caution" it has removed the three products identified by the FDA from its stores, and is also removing any remaining talc-based cosmetic products. While it has not recalled the products, it says it will "honour returns" of any Claire’s talc-based cosmetics.

According to the FDA, Justice stopped selling the products and issued a full recall in 2017, which is why they are not covered in the consumer warning. Justice did not respond to Chemical Watch’s request for comment by the time of publishing.

In a statement to Chemical Watch, Claire’s backs the safety of its three products tested by the FDA, saying it wants to "assure customers that our products are safe".

It adds that the products were "extensively tested by multiple independent accredited laboratories" and "all products were found to be compliant with all relevant cosmetic safety regulations".  

"The recent test results the FDA have shared with us show significant errors. Specifically, the FDA test reports have mischaracterised fibres in the products as asbestos, in direct contradiction to established EPA and USP criterion for classifying asbestos fibres."  

"We are disappointed that the FDA has taken this step, and we will continue to work with them to demonstrate the safety of our products," the statement says.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr (D-New Jersey), who requested that the FDA investigate the products, said in a statement: "Examples like Claire’s' refusal to voluntarily recall their asbestos-tainted products demonstrates the need to modernise the current regulatory framework for cosmetic and personal care products to ensure that the FDA can act to protect consumers when industry fails to do so."

Mr Pallone is one of the authors of a bipartisan bill that aims to reform US cosmetics legislation, which hasn’t been updated since 1938 (see box). "I look forward to receiving feedback on this proposal in the coming weeks and working with FDA and stakeholders to protect consumers and modernise our cosmetics regulatory framework," he said.

Last month, consumer products multinational Johnson & Johnson disclosed that it is being investigated by the US federal government over concerns that its talcum powder products cause cancer due to claims of asbestos contamination. Personal injury lawsuits are ongoing across the US, with more than 10,000 plaintiffs claiming that use of the company’s product has led to their development of ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.

Products recalled or withdrawn from Claire's and Justice

In September 2017, Justice voluntarily recalled Just Shine Shimmer Powder and seven additional cosmetic products including: Just Shine Bronzer Brush, Makeup Palette Pinks, Blues and Glitter Cream, and Eye Shadow Palette Cool, Pinks, Eye Shadow and Glitter Cream.

In December 2017, Claire’s removed from its stores the following products: Ultimate Mega Make Up Set, Metallic Hot Pink Glitter 48-Piece Makeup Set, Bedazzled Rainbow Heart Makeup Set, Rainbow Bedazzled Star Make Up Set, Rainbow Glitter Heart Shaped Makeup Set, Mint Glitter Make Up Set, Rainbow Bedazzled Rectangle Make Up Set, and Pink Glitter Palette with Eyeshadow & Lip Gloss.

FDA issues call to action

The provisions in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) – the law governing the FDA’s oversight of cosmetic products — have not been updated since it was first enacted in 1938.

The current law does not require cosmetics to be reviewed and approved by the FDA prior to being sold to consumers.

Because of this, the FDA says it will work with cosmetics manufacturers and request information about what procedures they use to ensure their cosmetics are safe and, in particular, how they ensure that talc used in any cosmetic product is free from asbestos.

"We will be investigating how manufacturers source talc with appropriate traceability, and whether they test raw talc and/or their finished products," it says.

It also wants to know how many cosmetics products contain talc and whether manufacturers have received reports of adverse reactions associated with talc-containing products.

Although the law doesn’t require cosmetic products to be registered with the FDA, the agency is calling on cosmetic firms to "take responsible steps" to voluntarily register their products and list ingredients, including talc, used in their products via the FDA's Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP).

Another step it is recommending is for manufacturers to report adverse events involving cosmetic products to the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s Adverse Event Reporting System. "Although this is not required by current law, we believe this reporting is an important component of responsible marketing and safe oversight of these products."

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