European Commission announces overhaul of cosmetics legislation

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Product safety, European union

The European Commission has formally proposed substantial changes
to current cosmetics legislation that aim to improve safety
procedures and simplify current requirements.

CosmeticsDesign.com outlined the major proposals a fortnight ago and they have now been formally adopted by the Commission in advance of being presented to the legislative. By recasting the Cosmetics Directive, the Commission is aiming to increase manufacturer responsibility and tighten up procedures in order to ensure product safety. The other key objectives are the removal of uncertainties and inconsistencies caused by the patchwork of amendments added to the original legislation in 1976 and the avoidance of national differences that do not contribute to product safety. Overall the changes are an attempt to guarantee product safety while minimising the administrative burden that cosmetic manufacturers face. The exact formulation of these proposals was determined after a period of public consultation with stakeholders including manufacturers, trade associations and consumer groups. Product safety and controls ​ Existing cosmetics legislation requires cosmetic companies to assess the safety of new products before launching them. However, no specific requirements were laid out for the safety assessment leading to "a relatively high degree of non-compliance", according to the impact assessment report produced after the consultation period. Under the proposals minimum requirements for product safety assessment have been established so manufacturers will have to provide evidence that their products are safe. The impact assessment report stated that this would increase costs for companies that had so far refrained from establishing robust procedures for assessing the safety of cosmetics. More generally the legislation will seek to reinforce the responsibility of manufacturers for ensuring product safety. One practical consequence of this principle is that companies will be obliged to report to the national regulator information on certain undesirable effects from the use of their products. Other proposed changes related to product safety include the strengthening of rules applying to no-compliant products and more detailed provisions on administrative cooperation in market surveillance. Still on the subject of product safety, the Commission has proposed that substances classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR) 1 and 2 will be allowed in products under strict conditions if declared safe by the Scientific Committee for Consumer Products. These substances are currently automatically banned in cosmetics without consideration of exposure which could mean that certain CMR substances are hazardous but do not pose a risk to human health. The status quo has the potential to create absurd situations whereby a substance banned in cosmetics is used in food with a much higher level of exposure. Simplification ​ As previously mentioned one of main objectives of the proposals is to simplify the existing legislation in order to reduce the administrative burden on cosmetic companies. These changes are designed to ease the pain of some of the tighter requirements related to product safety. The impact assessment report stated that any increased costs would be counter balanced by the considerable decrease in administrative costs. One notable proposal on the administration side relates to the notification of new products. Currently manufacturers have to notify the national authorities and poison control centres in each EU country when they launch a product and the requirements tend to differ between states. This scattered approach will be replaced by a single electronic EU notification system so manufacturers only have to provide a single set of information once. The proposals also contain other measures to improve the lives of manufacturers including an updated glossary of cosmetic ingredients to avoid the need for translation and unnecessary research and a set of legal definitions to render legal compliance less costly and burdensome. Commenting on the proposals, Bertil Heerink, the director general of the trade association Colipa said: "Colipa fully supports this initiative to update and streamline legislation, continuing to ensure consumer confidence in our industry and its products." ​ Manufacturers and suppliers who would like to comment on the proposed changes to the EU Cosmetics Directive are invited to send feedback by following the "contact the editor" link in blue at the very bottom of this page.

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