The report on Chemicals in Consumer Products and Cosmetics (which is one-of-three just released by Gelfand this week) opens with the observation that, “products with more complex chemistries and new materials are entering the Canadian marketplace. [And,] while these products provide benefits, effective oversight is important to address or prevent dangers to consumers.”
In an immaculately reasoned report Gelfand notes early on that “as is the case in other jurisdictions, including the United States and the European Union, the federal government has established a post-market program to oversee the safety of consumer products and cosmetics.” And, she makes clear that, “in this context, reliable and specific information on product attributes and ingredients is critical to protect consumers.”
Gelfand goes on to explain that this year’s audit looks at how well Health Canada’s Product Safety Program protects the public from cosmetic ingredients of concern and the like.
Room to improve
There are recommendations throughout the report for how Health Canada should improve its practices regarding e-commerce, counterfeit products, cosmetic safety product testing, disclosure of cosmetic ingredients, and oversight for cosmetic safety.
These include recommending that Health Canada “do product testing to determine the extent to which cosmetics include prohibited and/or unsafe concentrations of substances under the labels ‘fragrance,’ ‘parfum,’ ‘aroma,’ or ‘flavour’.”
The report also advises that the department “inform consumers that marketing terms such as ‘hypoallergenic,’ ‘preservative-free,’ ‘fragrance-free,’ and ‘unscented’ should not be confused with health and safety claims.
And, “Health Canada should inform consumers that it does not regularly test cosmetic products for prohibited and restricted substances, microbial contamination, and heavy metals.”
Health Canada is in agreement with Gelfand’s findings overall. And the department may even ask cosmetic and fragrance brands to make known the full ingredient list despite concerns about trade secrets.
“Health Canada will consider options to encourage manufacturers to disclose, on a confidential basis, the complete list and concentrations of substances that comprise ingredients listed under the umbrella terms referenced in the recommendation,” affirms the department in a response section of the report.