PARIS — Unilever was among the beauty companies and animal rights groups to send a letter on Wednesday morning to the European Commission, Parliament and Council calling for Europe’s animal testing ban to be maintained.
The EU Cosmetics Regulation bans on animal testing — whereby ingredients cannot be used in cosmetic products if they have been tested on animals anywhere in the world — were fully put into force in March 2013.
These days, beauty companies often test their cosmetics on laboratory-grown reconstructed skin.
In August 2020, the European Chemicals Agency, or ECHA, announced that some substances must be tested on animals even if they are just destined for use in cosmetics. The ECHA argues an assessment is needed if there is risk for workers in factories while the products are made.
In August, the two chemicals destined for animal testing were the UV filter homosalate and 2-ethylhexyl salicylate. And animal testing is being requested for hundreds of other ingredients.
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“There has been huge progress toward ending animal testing for cosmetics, and this is a worrying retreat,” said Sunny Jain, president of beauty and personal care at Unilever, in a statement. “The people who buy our products want to know that they, and the ingredients used in them, are not tested on animals, as well as safe.
“We’ve been developing and sharing this science needed to achieve this for 40 years,” he continued. “We’re pleased to see our brands, peers and animal protection groups speaking out on a subject that matters to so many consumers.”
“There is, quite simply, no reason to test cosmetics products, or the ingredients used in them, on animals,” said Julia Fentem, head of Unilever’s safety and environmental assurance center. “The ingredients at the center of ECHA’s testing decisions have a long history of safe use by consumers, and have been handled safely in factories for many years, thanks to effective, exposure-based assessments and controls.”
The subject of animal testing came to the fore again recently in a case dating back to March 2018 and involving German fragrance and flavors supplier Symrise. The ECHA ruled Symrise must carry out some toxicity tests on animals for the two sunscreen ingredients.
Symrise appealed, but that appeal was rejected in August. The supplier has subsequently launched two cases to annul that August ruling.
“The EU Cosmetics Regulation animal testing and marketing bans have been used as the gold standard around the world — setting the precedent for cosmetics products and ingredients to be used safely without subjecting animals to cruel and unnecessary tests,” said the letter sent Wednesday to the European governing bodies. “These bans have now been dealt a devastating blow following a series of regulatory decisions made by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), with the support from the European Commission’s own Board of Appeal.”
Unilever and 26 of its brands signed the letter, as have hundreds of beauty companies such as Aesop, Avon, Natura, Neal’s Yard Natural Remedies, Ren Clean Skincare, Simple, St. Ives, Tatcha and The Body Shop. Signatories also include animal rights groups like Humane Society International, PETA and Cruelty Free Europe.
In early November, several major beauty players and Humane Society International jointly published a statement to voice their opposition to the EU rules.
Humane Society International wrote in a separate release at the time that the animal testing requirements on the sunscreens had been made “to fulfill ‘tick-box’ registration requirements for worker safety under the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation.”
The REACH regulation in 2006 requires animal testing in some instances, including to protect long-term worker health and safety.
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