Cosmetics Lobby Urges More U.S. Regulation

In unusual move, Personal Care Products Council asks for more federal oversight of the industry and offered its own proposals to pending legislation.

WASHINGTON — Under pressure from consumers and watchdog groups, the cosmetics industry’s main trade and lobbying group, the Personal Care Products Council, has asked Congress for more federal oversight of the industry and offered its own proposals to pending legislation.

This story first appeared in the July 16, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The unusual move came amid widening consumer concerns about the regulation of thousands of ingredients used in cosmetics and personal care products.

The council sent letters on Thursday to the chairmen and ranking Republicans of committees in the House and Senate that oversee the Food and Drug Administration outlining measures it hopes to include in legislation intended to strengthen the authority of the FDA.

John Hurson, executive vice president for government affairs at the council, said the group primarily took the step because if consumers “have a question about this lotion being used, they will switch. It is a very easy market to pull them in a different direction.

“We think it is important for a structure to be in place to assure them [consumers] if there are questions about ingredients in a lot of products and also give them a way to get answers about the safety of ingredients by scientific review and by a respected agency like the FDA,” he said.

Hurson acknowledged there has been pressure from consumer advocates and others who have called into question the credibility of the regulations, and said the industry has been analyzing the regulatory structure of the FDA for the past three years.

Rep. John Dingell (D., Mich.) is the lead sponsor of a bill that has been introduced in the House that would mandate personal care product manufacturers to register all of the facilities where the products are made with the FDA, file product ingredient reports indicating all the ingredients used and report to the FDA any serious and unexpected events experienced by consumers.

“We have gone beyond those provisions [in the Dingell bill] and looked internally at the way the FDA reviews the ingredients in products,” Hurson said. “We felt we had to create a more streamlined and accountable system within the FDA with a clear timeline for decisions about the safety of ingredients.”

The council is calling for a new FDA ingredient review process regarding the safety of ingredients, a revamped method of setting safety levels for trace contaminants and FDA oversight of the findings of a nonprofit, independent panel that has been setting industry safety standards for more than 30 years.

The industry has relied on the findings of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, launched in 1976, by the leading industry trade group at the time, the FDA and the Consumer Federation of America.

Over the past 30 years, the panel has reviewed one-third of over 6,000 ingredients in use in thousands of products, Hurson said. The panel, comprised of academics, toxologists, dermatologists and doctors, sets the levels at which ingredients can be used and assesses their safety. The FDA participates as an observer in the deliberations.

“The issue is the industry is funding it, and we understand that concern,” Hurson said. “It is a new world out there where we have to be completely transparent and have integrity in the regulatory process.”

To that end, the council is calling on the FDA to review all the panels’ findings to determine if they were flawed.