Three years ago, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution calling for a global ban on animal testing for cosmetics by 2023. Already in 2013, the EU had put an end to animal testing on ingredients used exclusively in cosmetic products, setting an example worldwide that moving away from animal experimentation was possible.
The EU’s own cosmetic ban is however being shredded by the application of the Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), to fulfil requirements for risk assessment of worker exposure or to evaluate ecotoxicity.
In November, a joint statement co-signed by more than 400 companies and animal welfare organisations, including L’Oréal, Unilever and the ONG Human Society International, condemned several ECHA Board of Appeal’s decisions requiring unnecessary animal tests for occupational safety assessment of single used cosmetic ingredients. Symrise, a German company, recently seized the European Court of Justice to appeal a similar decision by the Board.
Yet, REACH requires the replacement of animal models with New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) when they exist. In vivo testing should apply as a last resort.
The lack of transparency surrounding these tests on animals is even more concerning. On the assumption that animal tests ended under the Cosmetic Regulation, the EU no longer includes data on animal tests carried out on single-use cosmetic ingredients in its reports on the use of animals for scientific purposes in its Member States.
EU citizens are misled in their right to purchase products that are in adequation with their opinions and values. By impoverishing the scope of the cosmetics ban, ECHA does not only induce uncertainties for the industry, it also sets a dangerous precedent that hampers the overall objective of the EU to ban animal testing for cosmetics ingredients worldwide by 2023.
“The ECHA should promote the use of NAMs and not weaken the ban of animal testing concerning cosmetics. This would be an important step to reach our goal to phase out the use of animals also in other testing procedures and would contribute to reduce huge animal suffering,” said MEP Tilly Metz from the Greens Group.
“By impoverishing the scope of the cosmetics ban, ECHA does not only induce uncertainties for the industry, it also sets a dangerous precedent that hampers the overall objective of the EU to ban animal testing for cosmetics ingredients worldwide by 2023”
“Our ambition is that by 2027, the large majority of European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) request for additional data will be based on alternative methodologies,” stated the EFSA Director in front of Parliament’s Environment Committee, on 15 April 2021.
The EU is investing €60m three research projects to develop NAMs through the H2020 Programme over the next five years. This will prove successful only if ECHA fully endorses its responsibility to promote animal-free approaches and adopt them itself.
Global chemical production is expected to double by 2030. As part of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability - which is seen as a first step towards a “toxic-free environment” - important revisions of the EU framework are expected, including the Cosmetic Regulation.
“There is quite a concern that the proposed Chemicals Strategy may result in a lot more animal testing and less commitment,” explained MEP Cristian-Silviu Bușoi, Chair of EP’s Industry Committee. Industry, NGOs and the scientific community are also worried over the lack of reference to NAMs in the Strategy and the potential increase in animal testing requirements.
As the United States will no longer request nor fund mammalian studies by 2035, and Canada is creating a right to a healthy environment, the EU must pursue its efforts to support the modernisation of scientific methods in order to better protect human health and the environment, while reducing animal experimentation.