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Voice of the Industry

"China may be quicker than the West to accept non-animal testing alternative," says industry expert

By Michelle Yeomans , 16-Jul-2012

With China poised to accept its first ever non-animal test method for cosmetics by late summer, Dr. Brian Jones of the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS) says don’t be surprised by how quickly the autorities accept and implement more.

In this, the third edition of ‘Voice of the Industry’, a new cosmetics Design series, we caught up with the man whose team played an intricate part in persuading Chinese officials to take on the alternative.

Here, the director of education and outreach programs at the IIVS discusses his team’s role in the decision, China’s attitude to non-animal testing alternatives and its five year plan to introduce more.

Why now?

With officials in the final stages of approving the ‘3T3 Neutral Red Uptake Phototoxicity Assay’, Dr. Jones says his team had help bringing about the change.

From my experience, China is very interested in alternatives; the Guangdong CDC laboratory for example has done a lot of work looking at alternatives over the last ten years.”

So, the question is why now? Why implement an alternative that the U.S. and Europe has used for years?

Firstly, the scientist points to the transition period of Ministry of Health (MOH) giving way to the SFDA which now regulates cosmetics as holding up the process.

He also reckons that officials are starting to understand that science provides better information than animals; “They are cautious and careful about wanting to make any changes to protect consumers, but I think when they see something that works well they act on it and do so quickly.”

Finally, Jones reports growing feedback from non-animal testing external companies wanting to break onto the Chinese market, coupled with internal companies looking to sell in Europe as also having an influence in the process.   

The West vs. China

Continuing with the discussion of how the West adapted to animal testing alternatives years ago, the expert highlights that the Chinese cosmetic market has really only matured in the last ten or fifteen years.

In China, within just a few years, they were looking to accept this method and have a plan over the next five years to look at about ten other different assays in non-animal testing.”

Furthermore he says; “They just need the education and the opportunity to understand the methods. I think they may surprise us on how quickly they accept these methods – who knows, they may be as quick if not quicker than the West.”

The process

The Institute specializes in testing thousands of ingredients for cosmetic companies while providing training on its methods in an effort to get the word out to regulatory agencies about alternatives. 

In 2006, Dr. Jones first trekked to China to discuss alternatives in cosmetics, since then he travels up to nine times a year for two and three weeks at a time in an effort to bring labs up to speed on the methods.

In November of last year, the breakthrough came when Chinese officials held a conference with the IIVS team and a number of experts to discuss how to modify the Assay and fit it in to what’s been done in the cosmetics industry.

We talked about going through a system of working labs and the competency of the assay - in December they were working on it from the labs and by February they had the document for comment.”

What now?

After returning from his most recent trip to China, Jones informs Cosmetics Design that the document still has to go through official SFDA channels but every indication is there that the alternative will be accepted by late summer / early fall.

Now, he tells us,  Chinese officals have already moved on to look at other assays. “They are pushing for 10 - 12 assays to be accepted or evaluated and with any luck will have two more by the end of the year evaluated and for discussion/acceptance.”

No rest for the wicked though as the presence of the IIVS is still very much required in China, alongide his team, Dr. Jones will continue to build labs and educate scientists to ensure that the assays are used properly.

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Here, Dr. Jones discusses the team's new focus to get Russia and Brazil on board for the same non animal testing alternative and how long it will be before the industry sees results.

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