Cosmetics boss: EU still a world leader after animal-testing ban

Cosmetics

The EU remains a world leader in cosmetics. [Mike Mozart/Flickr]

A ban on animal-tested ingredients in 2013 in the EU has not affected the cosmetics industry negatively. The EU is still a world leader in cosmetics and safety levels have not been lowered with alternative methods, says John Chave. 

John Chave is director general of Cosmetics Europe, which represents the cosmetics industry at EU level.

Chave spoke to EURACTIV’s Henriette Jacobsen.

What are some of the new, alternative testing methods that the cosmetics industry is now using instead of animal-tested ingredients?

We have alternative methods that have guidelines from the OECD. So once they are supported by the OECD, we will use them. These are specifically for regulatory purposes. We also use alternative methods before we go into the regulatory scheme as well. Many companies use alternative methods as a kind of pre-screen of ingredients. That has been used prior to the regulatory schemes already. There are pre-selections before you actually go into a selection of your ingredients.

So there are two sets of alternatives; the ones that are regulatory accepted and the ones that are being used in the developmental phase of choosing your ingredients. These are usually not validated. They are used by companies to do the first selection.

What does this mean for new products that you are using new methods? Does it mean there will be, for example, more chemicals in products?

No, not more chemicals in products. The situation previously was that chemicals were tested on animals. Now this is not possible in Europe anymore.

So we have to find ways to develop new products, using chemicals of course, which have been tested safely. We want to make sure that our products are safe, obviously. So it doesn’t mean more chemicals. It’s just a different way of innovating and creating new products.

Is it completely possible to ensure consumers that their products are as safe now as when they were tested on animals?

Absolutely. Some of the chemicals that we used before the ban on animal-tested chemicals are still used. But obviously, just because we are using different ways of testing products, doesn’t mean that we have lowered the safety levels. On the contrary. We’re are trying to build up new techniques to ensure that we maintain the same levels of safety.

There is the issue of continuous improvement all the time. We are trying to also improve our ways for safety assessment. The new alternative ways will help us to improve that as we go along.

How far is Europe compared to the rest of the world when it comes to using alternative methods?

Pretty much leading the way I think. Europe was the first region to get a testing ban. Now other regions are following on. We have been working on this situation for 20 years. We started working on the issue before the full ban came into effect. So we had already build up a body of knowledge. Europe, as in so many aspects of the cosmetics industry, is the world leader.

When it comes to science, there are no boundaries and we will use all knowledge available, also that coming from outside of Europe. The focus on alternative methods in Europe, however, has been there for many, many years – more than in any other region in the world.

You see that other countries such as the US and China are becoming interested in alternative methods. This is an area where Europe is really breaking ground.

Would you say that this ban in Europe has had an impact on testing methods in the rest of the world?

It’s happening. We have seen proposals in the US, Canada, Brazil and Russia. A ban has been put in place in India. I think it’s fair to say that in Europe, we have the most sophisticated approach to cosmetics regulation and a lot of people around the world are looking at the way, we are doing things. Frankly, they imitate what we do here. We’re leading the way in all sorts of ways.

How has the partnership (SEURAT-1) with the European Commission on developing new testing methods been?

It’s been groundbreaking. It’s one of the first projects of its kind. The collaboration has been really positive. We have seen other sectors looking at the way we’re working. It’s a lot like the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) between the pharmaceutical industry and the Commission. So we’re quite proud that we have pushed forward the frontiers with the partnership with the authorities to develop new things, particularly when it’s groundbreaking science. 

When the first project with the Commission ends, what is going to happen?

We will have a new science project so we will continue. The SEURAT-1 was the beginning, but science continues to move forward. it’s very important that we keep the momentum going. SEURAT-1 is finished, but that opens the door to new appoaches, not only through what Cosmetics Europe organises. In some areas of regulatory testing, we make more progress than in others. That is just because of the complexity of the toxicological endpoint. In five years from now, we may have alternatives for all kinds of skin allergy, but for other endpoints, we need more time to get to the full alternative set of methods.

Has this new way of doing science created jobs and growth within the industry?

Well, it has at least kept a lot of scientists busy in the narrow sense. In the broader sense, the cosmetics industry in Europe is responsible directly or indirectly for 1.7 million jobs. A lot of those jobs depend on our ability to innovate and create new products to grow the industry, and that is directly linked to our ability to validate alternative testing. So the answer is probably ‘yes’.

>> Read: Cosmetics industry enters new research era after animal-testing ban