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Stricter EU Legislation Targets Cosmetics Safety

New legislation goes into effect across the European Union on Thursday, ushering in more stringent safety requirements and detailed labeling.

MILAN — Europeans will be able to slather on creams with more confidence come Thursday.

That’s when new legislation goes into effect across the European Union, ushering in more stringent safety requirements and detailed labeling.

Highlights of the new regulation include the introduction of “responsible persons,” who will be listed with contact information on all cosmetic product labels. These people are charged with ensuring product compliance and maintaining up-to-date safety assessments on file.

Additionally, manufacturers must respect more precise guidelines on how to evaluate a cosmetic product’s safety before introducing it on the market, and all items sold are to be submitted to a centralized European electronic notification system that’s been in place since January 2012.

All nanomaterials — molecules or particles tiny enough to remain for a long time on skin — must be explicitly listed on cosmetics packaging, with the word “nano” in brackets following substance names, and have to be authorized in the regulation’s annexes.

Called the Cosmetics Regulation, it replaces the existing Cosmetics Directive and its 67 amendments, which impose certain standards on all EU countries but give member states leeway in implementing the rules and enforcing them. By contrast, the new regulation functions as a single law and has an expanded reach, eliminating “ambiguities that may occur among the member states” during transposition, said a spokesman for the European Commission’s department of health and consumers.

The current EU Cosmetics Directive already states that “labeling, marketing and advertising of cosmetic products, texts, names, trademarks, pictures and figurative or other signs cannot be used to imply that these products have characteristics or functions which they do not have.” However, Article 20 of the Cosmetics Regulation takes this requirement one step further by introducing six common criteria — “legal compliance, truthfulness, evidential support, honesty, fairness and informed decision making” — to justify claims made about cosmetics.

The new regulation “notably strengthens the safety of cosmetic products for consumers, streamlines the framework for all actors and simplifies procedures,” said a European Commission department of health and consumers spokesman. “It will also contribute to more informed consumer decision making.”

Cosmetics Europe has been “very involved” in working with the commission on the new framework, said Virginia Lee, the personal care trade association’s director of communication and public affairs.

“We really welcome [the regulation],” she added. “There is going to be a simplification of procedures and terminology, which helps everybody.”

Lee noted the changes have been under way since 2010 but are solely applicable on Thursday.

The requirement to label nanomaterials should not alarm consumers about their safety, according to Lee.

“It doesn’t change the product. We’ve been using nanomaterials for years,” she said. “It’s about informing the consumer…and this isn’t something directed specifically at the cosmetics industry.”

Nanomaterials are present in a wide range of consumer products.

Daniela Sacerdote, chief executive officer of Italian cosmetics brand Collistar, believes the new regulation eliminates red tape and facilitates free trade.

She explained if formerly a cosmetics product had to be registered (or “notified,” in EU jargon) in one country, then again in the various countries where a company chose to export — with different systems and administrative obligations — “the new [centralized] notification system makes everything faster and more fluid. The advantages for companies that rely heavily on exports are obvious.”

The legislative modifications on cosmetics are ongoing. As previously reported, the ban forbidding the import and sale of animal-tested cosmetics products and ingredients in the EU went into effect on March 11.

The Commission spokesman said enforcing the animal testing ban is a major goal going forward.

Nick Palmer, head of policy at the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, agreed implementation is complex, with some EU countries more proactive than others.

“The main potential risk is that companies ‘forget’ to mention animal tests done in other countries and are not specifically asked about it,” he said. “We’d like to see all EU members have their trading standards bodies inspect the product information files whenever they check cosmetics.…To only look at specific complaints is insufficient, since it is not an obvious issue that will necessarily get reported.”

Meanwhile, by 2014, the EU Commission will publish a complete catalogue of nanomaterials used in cosmetics and thereafter release annual status reports on these ingredients. And by Jan. 11, 2015, it will review rules pertaining to the use of endocrine disruptors.