US cosmetics industry fears FDA safety crackdown

Related tags Cosmetics Cosmetics products Fda

The US FDA is threatening to crack down on safety labeling of
cosmetics products - a move that could have serious repercussions
for the industry, reports Simon Pitman.

In a recent letter addressed to the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, the FDA said that it was responding to calls from pressure groups to ensure the safety of all cosmetic ingredients.

The FDA advised all cosmetics manufacturers it intends to enforce a rule that all labels contain the statement: 'Warning - the safety of this product has not been determined.'

"You should know that FDA​ intends to consider taking compliance action, where appropriate, regarding cosmetic products that contain ingredients that we determine have not been shown to be safe,"​ the letter said.

The requirement stems from a 67-year-old law requiring companies to label any products containing ingredients that have not been publicly tested for safety.

The letter also referred to a petition from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an independent lobby group, which claims around 99 per cent of ingredients in cosmetics products currently sold in the US have not been publicly assessed for safety.

WWG conducted the study using 7,500 personal care products, including leading brands from all the major cosmetics manufacturers, including L'Oreal, Elizabeth Arden, Proctor & Gamble and Palmolive-Colgate. Its findings concluded that one third of all the products contained ingredients known to be cancer-causing, while 70 per contained potentially harmful impurities.

The study​ also reveals a list of cosmetic products that passed the safety tests, including Burberry men's cologne and Cetathil Gentle Skin Cleanser.

"When risky chemicals are used in cosmetics, the stakes are high. These compounds are not trace contaminants. They are the base ingredients of the product, just as flour is an ingredient in bread,"​ and EWG statement said.

"Scientists find common cosmetic ingredients in human tissues, like industrial plasticizers called phthalates in urine, preservatives called parabens in breast tumor tissue, and persistent fragrance components like musk xylene in human fat. Do the levels at which they are found pose risks? Those studies have not been done. They are not required."

Lobby groups such as EWG would like to see regulations fall in line with those currently in place in the European Union, where prior testing of all cosmetics ingredients is currently required by law.

The move could prove serious for the world's largest cosmetics and personal care market, currently valued at $40 billion. Safety labels would inevitably hit sales, but equally the cost of implementing a comprehensive testing system would be immense for manufacturers.

Similar moves by the FDA to regulate the pharmaceutical industry in the US have seriously impacted the industry recently by limiting the availability of over-the-counter drugs.

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