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E.U. Bans Cosmetics With Animal-Tested Ingredients

by James KanterNew York Times
March 11th, 2013

BRUSSELS — European Union regulators announced a ban Monday on the import and sale of cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals and to pledge more efforts to push other parts of the world, like China, to accept alternatives.

Tonio Borg, the European Union's commissioner for health and consumer policy, said in a draft announcement that Europe was trying to set an example.

The ban, which will take effect immediately, “gives an important signal on the value that Europe attaches to animal welfare,” Tonio Borg, the E.U. commissioner for health and consumer policy, said in a statement.

The European Union banned animal testing of finished cosmetic products in 2004. A second ban, on animal-tested ingredients, went into effect four years ago. But heavy lobbying by major cosmetics manufacturers resulted in an extension of the deadline for some tests for effects like allergies and cancer and for which there is still no substitute. Monday’s action eliminated those remaining exemptions.

Even before the new rule was officially announced, the cosmetics company L’Oréal, which is based in France, said it would respect the ban and “no longer sell in Europe any finished product with an ingredient that was tested on animals” after Monday.

But other representatives of the European industry, worth about €70 billion, or $91 billion, annually, criticized the commission for putting the ban into effect before alternatives existed for some of the most complex tests.

“Europe’s idea is to put more pressure on other parts of the world to end animal testing, but the science doesn’t match that political timetable,” said Colin Mackay, a spokesman for Cosmetics Europe, a trade association.

The most likely outcome would be “that consumers in Europe won’t have access to new products because we can’t ensure that some ingredients will be safe without access to suitable and adequate testing,” Mr. Mackay said.

The global divergence in safety rules could also mean that companies sell the same product globally, but market one version for countries like China backed up by safety evidence from animal tests, and another version for Europe backed up by evidence from alternative tests.

And there were warnings on Monday that the ban still left a loophole. Shortly after the announcement, Dagmar Roth-Behrendt, a Socialist lawmaker from Germany who a decade ago helped to steer a measure through the European Parliament that resulted in the 2004 ban, said companies still could use ingredients from tests on animals as long as the tests were carried out for non-cosmetic products like pharmaceuticals or chemicals.  

Ms. Roth-Behrendt said she did not know if the loophole “followed pressure from the industry,” but added, “This is wrong.” 

Consumers of products from deodorants to sunscreens are unlikely to notice an immediate difference from the new rules because cosmetics containing ingredients that were tested on animals before the ban can remain on the shelves.

But the move could complicate trade relations with parts of the world like China that demand animal testing as a condition for marketing cosmetics.

Mr. Borg said in his statement that he would “engage with third countries to follow our European approach.”

Mr. Borg will promise to continue helping finance the development of alternatives, so that Europe sets “an example of responsible innovation in cosmetics without any compromise on consumer safety.”

Estée Lauder, a cosmetics manufacturer based in the United States, said it did not test products or ingredients on animals and it was increasing efforts to gain global acceptance for safety evaluations that did not rely on animal tests.

Those efforts include “programs in China and other markets where in vitro testing is not accepted in order to educate scientists on the scientifically validated safety record of these methods,” Estée Lauder said on its Web site.

Estée Lauder said it does “not test our products or ingredients on animals, nor do we ask others to test on our behalf, except where required by law.”