Special interview

CTFA targets misinformation to counteract lobby groups

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Lobby groups Cosmetics

The increasing number of attacks by lobby groups on the US
cosmetics and personal care industry means that it is
time to fight back. CosmeticsDesign.com spoke to Dr John
Bailey, executive vice president - science for the Cosmetic,
Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA) about the approach being
taken to redress the balance.

Lobby groups and interest groups have always been around, but in recent years the cosmetics and personal care industry has become a preferred target. However, the internet means that campaigns are now easier to launch and disseminate to huge audiences, making the threat of misinformation all the more powerful. In reaction to this, the CTFA has chosen to fight back, but not by directly criticizing such campaigns. Instead the organization's approach has also been to use the internet, but as a tool to spread information that is based upon 'reliable scientific research'. "These campaigns often do a grave disservice to consumers by using inflammatory and alarmist rhetoric to create scientifically unsubstantiated health scares,"​ said Bailey. "Their intent is to cause so much pain and disruption that management is forced to yield to their will. Many of these activists do not even see corporations as legitimate social entities."As the number and duration of these campaigns increase, they do have the potential to unnecessarily alarm consumers and plant seeds of doubt about the safety of the products they use. "These campaigns often do a grave disservice to the consumers by using inflammatory and alarmist rhetoric to create scientifically unsubstantiated health scares. They often present incomplete, distorted, or erroneous information to support their claims, sowing confusion and fear." ​ Bailey cites the research of political scientist Dr. Jerry Manheim, who claims that the public face of such lobby campaigns is a 'dramatic morality play to redefine and claim the moral high ground', in turn undermining the reputation of a company or industry. "The tools of communication and their research have multiplied, from YouTube and blogs to RSS and podcasting. The good news is that these tools are available for our use as well in getting out the facts about our products and ingredients to consumers." ​ Instead of turning the situation in to a mud slinging match, the CTFA has decided to use the same medium as the lobby groups to counter their attacks, providing consumers with the opportunity to make their own decisions based on solid facts. "Informed consumers are better able to judge for themselves the veracity of the claims they may hear from these campaigns." ​ One of the main driving forces behind the CTFA's counter campaign is the launch of its Cosmetics Ingredients Review website, which Bailey believes will be an integral means of helping consumers make informed decisions for themselves. "We are creating this site as part of our industry's longtime commitment to consumers." ​ To be launched towards the end of this year, the site aims to provide consumers with an online resource that offers easy access to both factual and scientific information about individual ingredients and the safety of finished products. "This site is one of a number of initiatives we are undertaking on behalf of consumers. Others include the new Consumer Commitment Code that went into effect in January of this year, ongoing enhancements to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, and working to secure more resources for the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors, the US regulatory body for cosmetics. "Our aim is to make robust scientific information about our products and ingredients available and easily accessible in consumer-friendly language to anyone who does have questions or concerns about the safety of a particular product or ingredient." ​ One of the main stands lobby groups have taken against the industry has been legislation, with the chief criticism being that there are too many loop-holes in FDA cosmetic and personal care regulation. In response to this criticism, Bailey says regulation of cosmetics ingredients in the US can benefit the industry if it builds on federal regulatory structure. This underlines his belief that current FDA legislation is backed up by the Consumer Commitment Code, which allows for cosmetic company's to report to the FDA on a voluntary basis. On a State level, lobby group campaigns have already been effective driving forces behind changes for cosmetics legislation in California. But instead of complicating matters, Bailey says that the resulting changes made by the State have lent further support to the existing regulatory process, rather than creating duplicative regulatory structures. "We do think new regulation of cosmeti ingredients in the US can benefit the industry if it builds upon federal regulatory structure that the industry currently follow." ​But ultimately Bailey believes that lobby group can do little to damage the image of the industry because it is unmitigated facts that will win out in the end. "These campaigns won't do serious damage to the industry because their underlying allegations are not based on facts. The facts don't support their allegations."

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