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Are all Cosmetics in Europe really Cruelty-Free? The European Animal Testing Ban



The EU stance on animal testing


In September of 2021, the European Parliament reiterated its stance on animal testing. An initiative that was created to speed up the replacement of animal testing for scientific, regulatory, and education purposes with proper alternatives, received tremendous support from the parliament: 667 seats in favor vs 4.[1] This historical vote arrives almost 11 years after the Directive 2010/63/EU [2] was approved, and 17 years after the first Cosmetic Testing Ban of 2004. This directive already established phasing out the use of animal models as one of its main goals [3]. However, as of 2017, 12 million animals were bred and used for testing and research. [3-4] This number highlights the need for a well-established plan of action designed to provide researchers and regulatory authorities with good alternatives to animal models.


The Cosmetic Testing Ban has been in place for over 10 years and, even though the industry has developed quite an expertise in in vitro techniques and alternatives, the road to end animal testing for cosmetic purposes has not been as straightforward as it may seem. [5]


The animal testing ban


The directive that regulates animal testing for cosmetic purposes in the European Union is Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 [6]. It highlights the characteristics of the animal testing ban and its two major parts:


- The testing ban: the first part of this ban which applies to finished cosmetic products was approved in September of 2004, and to ingredients or ingredient combinations in March of 2009.


- The marketing ban: which forbids ingredients or products tested on animals from being marketed within the European Union. This ban applies to all substances since March of 2013.


Therefore, it should be assumed that by 2021, there are no cosmetic products that have been tested on animals, or that include ingredients that were tested on animals currently being sold in Europe. However, that is not the case. [7]



REACH and Cosmetic Regulations


REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals, a list of procedures and guidelines that were established to guarantee the environmental, occupational, and human health safety of chemical compounds. [8] Certain cosmetic compounds may need to be registered under REACH to prove that they are safe for the environment and human use. And animal testing is often required to test the long-term exposure safety of a compound. The European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), stated regarding this overlap that “the testing and marketing bans in the Cosmetics Regulation do not apply to testing required for environmental endpoints, exposure of workers and non-cosmetic uses of substances under REACH.” [9]


What does this mean then for European Cosmetics? Although animal testing is forbidden in most cases, some exceptions will not only allow but require animal testing to bring a new product to the market.

Chart depicting the interface between REACH and Cosmetic Regulations: The cases in which the marketing and testing ban is lifted are highlighted with a red square.


Conclusion


The European Commission and the Cosmetic Industry are taking steps to end animal testing. But the historical and well-established use of animal models still lingers, and, if regulatory bodies keep requiring data obtained from animal testing, it will be impossible to guarantee a future in which no cosmetic product sold in Europe was tested on animals beforehand.


I believe that more funding and research efforts should be destined for the development of effective testing methods that could substitute animal models. Meanwhile, Regulatory Authorities should be more open to these alternatives and work on adjusting the regulations accordingly. It is important to make sure that cosmetics are safe to use and produce, but it is just as important to achieve this in a way that does not require animal suffering.


References

  1. MEPs demand EU action plan to end the use of animals in research and testing | Attualità | Parlamento europeo (europa.eu)

  2. Directive 2010/63/EU

  3. Ban on animal testing (europa.eu)

  4. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52020DC0015&from=EN

  5. Animal testing in EU declining, cosmetics must share in-vitro methods (cosmeticsdesign-europe.com)

  6. https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/default/files/endocrine_disruptors/docs/cosmetic_1223_2009_regulation_en.pdf

  7. https://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/0/cosmetics_reach_interface_animal_testing_en.pdf/a1c91da8-bad8-64c3-400a-82db0085406a

  8. https://echa.europa.eu/it/regulations/reach/understanding-reach

  9. https://echa.europa.eu/it/-/clarity-on-interface-between-reach-and-the-cosmetics-regulation



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