US cosmetics industry reacts to BSE

Related tags Cosmetics industry North america

The outbreak of BSE in North America is prompting the cosmetics
industry to introduce a host of measures designed at protecting
consumers there - measures that have already been in place since
1989 in Europe. Simon Pitman reports.

In the US bovine by-products are still used in a host of cosmetic applications, an issue that the FDA says it is currently addressing. The organisation says that it is looking into the risk that such products pose to consumers, although that risk has already been proved to be statistically very small.

The FDA issued an interim rule back in July of this year that bans the use of domestic or imported risk materials in cattle that is more than 30 months old. Animal parts include brain, skull, eyes, spinal cord and other vital organs - all commonly used for a variety of applications in the cosmetics industry, including the production of soap, shampoo and creams.

However, the FDA has exempted cosmetics manufacturers and makers of soap by allowing tallow derivatives to be used in products. This means that derivatives such as fatty acids and glycerin - vital ingredients for a host of cosmetics applications - can still be used in the manufacturing process.

But with the first incidence of BSE reaching Canada at the end of last year, some critics say that the North American authorities have been slow to react.

In Europe, where the disease was first identified back in the late 80s, the authorities have had to learn from experience about how to deal with the disease and the risk it poses in cosmetics applications.

"The European Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Industry was already considering the implications of BSE as early as 1989 and it took immediate action to ensure that the safety of no single product would be questioned by this new development,"​ Sebastian Marx, communications manager for COLIPA told "Thus, when the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued its recommendations on BSE in 1991, the industry was already in a position to follow them rigorously."

The experiences of the European cosmetics industry has undoubtedly helped in the speedier implementation of prevention measures, but with a host of bovine by-products still being approved for cosmetics applications in North America, further legislation cannot be ruled out.

Related topics Formulation & Science