Clearing Up Misinformation About the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013
The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 (H.R. 1385) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 21, 2013, with some important changes made in response to concerns raised by some members of the small business community. The bill authors took this feedback seriously. As a result the new bill is even better and stronger: better because it is more workable for businesses while still protecting consumer health; stronger because the bill authors built in even more access to information and technical support for small businesses, so it will be easier for them to get the information they need to make safer products and comply with the law.
Many cosmetic manufacturers came out in support of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 and are educating themselves about the significant changes in the new bill. These are businesses that prioritize consumer health and want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. However, not everyone wants to work together to find a solution to the problem of toxic chemicals in cosmetics: a handful of gross mischaracterizations circulating on the Internet are confusing the facts and misrepresenting how the bill would impact both current law and current manufacturing practices.
Here are the facts: the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 will help small cosmetics companies that want to make safer products in the following ways.
Small Business Exemptions
Most notably, the new bill exempts microbusinesses with less than $2 million in annual sales from all fees and registration requirements, and it exempts small businesses with less than $10 million in annual sales from all fees.
Naysayers argue the cost of pre-market testing for ingredients and contaminants from ingredients would be a barrier to entry for small businesses and put the majority of them out of business. This concern was addressed by the bill authors in the new bill through an expanded "producer right-to-know" provision that enables cosmetics companies to get toxicological data and safety information for cosmetic ingredients, as well as documentation regarding the absence or level of contaminants, from suppliers, including a full listing of the chemicals in fragrance and preservatives – information they previously were denied access to. This places the responsibility for providing ingredient safety data on suppliers rather than on manufacturers of cosmetics products.
The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 requires manufacturers to disclose the name of each ingredient in their products in descending order of prominence, including the ingredients that make up fragrance. It's up to the FDA to determine whether all ingredients are to be listed on the product label or online – an important reality check for small products that contain a lot of ingredients.
Rumors are also circulating that the bill would require labeling of contaminants that occur in nature and specifically in botanicals; this is incorrect. The new bill does not require full listing of all constituent ingredients in botanicals on the product label. Instead, it allows the FDA to require labeling of specific constituent ingredients of concern (e.g. common allergens as is currently required in the European Union).
Federal law already requires ingredients to be listed on cosmetic product labels in descending order of concentration. So the bill isn’t calling for anything new in that regard, despite allegations to the contrary. In addition, companies will not have to publicly disclose the percentage of ingredients used to formulate a cosmetic product. This information is clearly protected in Section 623 of the new bill as a part of the CBI (confidential business information) provision. ("Confidential Information – The concentration of cosmetic ingredients used in a finished cosmetic shall be considered confidential business information and may not be made available to the public under subsection (a)").
Finally, an important new provision regarding contaminant testing was also included in the new bill in response to concerns raised by small cosmetic manufacturers: The bill now requires the FDA to create a list of specific contaminants likely to be found in certain cosmetics ingredients, provide testing protocols for these contaminants and determine the level at which these contaminants must be listed on ingredient labels. This will go a long way in clearing up the confusion regarding contaminant testing.
Leveling the Playing Field
In the big picture, the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 will benefit small businesses by increasing the flow of information to businesses and consumers and leveling the playing field so that all companies are playing by the same rules. In the current marketplace, where ingredients are kept secret and toxicity data is inaccessible, consumers are confused and do not have easy access to the information they need to make informed choices. The data and product transparency provisions of the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act will help clear up confusion and give consumers and companies the tools to more easily choose the best and safest products and ingredients.