Ban on animal-tested cosmetics
An EU-wide ban on the marketing of cosmetics tested on animals has just entered into force, after the expiry of the last deadline to phase out animal testing for cosmetic ingredients. This deadline had been set in 2003 by the European Parliament and the Council. Following this 2003 Directive, a ban on animal testing for cosmetic products was introduced in 2004.
The newly introduced ban refers to animal testing of the ingredients of cosmetic products. It prohibits any cosmetic products from being sold in the EU if their ingredients have undergone animal testing.
The ban is enforceable on all new cosmetic products that use animals to test ingredients and is also applicable to products where such testing took place outside the EU. However, cosmetic products which used animal testing for ingredients before the ban came into force can remain on sale.
This ban encourages European Union trading partners to set similar standards on animal welfare. Currently there are no bans of such a nature in either US markets or in Asian markets. The Commission hopes to incorporate such standards into its trade agenda and encourage international cooperation on the issue.
Animal testing for cosmetics ingredients has been banned within the EU since 2009. Despite this, testing was allowed to continue on animals to examine the effects of different substances on human health, such as toxic substances which may lead to cancer. Under the newly introduced ban, testing of this nature has now also been prohibited.
The ECEAE (European Coalition to End Animal Experiments) had been advocating such a ban for the last 20 years. It is therefore a strong supporter of the European Union wide prohibition.
Both the ECEAE and the European Commission are trying to find alternative solutions to animal testing. The Commission had allocated funds of €238 million for such research between 2007 and 2011. The cosmetics industry is also assisting in the research to find alternative testing methods and has contributed €25 million to the SEURAT research initiative: Safety Evaluation Ultimately Replacing Animal Testing
Naturally, cosmetic firms have expressed their doubts on the new ban. No completely alternative solution to animal testing has yet been found. The cosmetics industry therefore feels that the European Commission is sidelining science. The industry also feels that a ban of such nature and at a time of economic uncertainty will have negative effects on the industry’s competitiveness.
In addition, the €70 billion industry says the ban will hamper its ability to develop its innovation at a time when growth is essential.
Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner Tonio Borg expressed his support for the ban and sees it as an opportunity for Europe to take the lead in responsible innovation in the cosmetics sector while ensuring consumer safety. Prior to introducing the ban, the European Commission had carried out an assessment. It found that the positive effects of the ban outweighed the possible negative effects. The Commission therefore sided with European citizens who are strongly against animal testing for cosmetics.
Despite the ban a number of loopholes for the cosmetics industry remain. For example, any new cosmetic products that have been manufactured outside the European Union which contain animal tested ingredients can still be sold in certain circumstances. The manufacturers must be able to prove that the product meets the required safety standards.
In addition, any cosmeticproducts that contain pharmaceutical ingredients which have been subjected to animal testing following EU rules covering pharmaceutical products can still remain for sale within the European Union.
Thus the ban provides a number of exceptional cases for cosmetics products. In light of this it is hoped the cosmetics industry will not seek to take advantage of such loopholes or use the gaps in legislation as an easy way out.
It remains to be seen whether such loopholes will be dealt with in the future through further European legislation.
David Casa is a Nationalist MEP.