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P&G’s Crusade Against Animal Testing

The company accomplishes more than 99 percent of safety assessments with nonanimal, alternative methods.

Procter & Gamble Co. has been on a mission to use its research capabilities to eliminate animal testing across the industry.

The company’s efforts date back to the early Eighties when P&G recruited scientists and invested in laboratories dedicated to reducing and ultimately eliminating the use of animals in toxicology studies. P&G stopped safety testing on finished cosmetics product 10 years before the European Union enforced a ban. It now accomplishes more than 99 percent of safety assessments with nonanimal, alternative methods. 

“P&G has been actively pursuing animal alternatives for nearly 40 years. We are convinced that the only way forward for maintaining our own high product safety standards and meeting our consumers’ safety expectations is to develop and use the best science available,” said Len Sauers, vice president of Global Product Stewardship for P&G. “We believe that ending animal testing is a benefit for all — consumers, animal welfare and the industry — and we are committed to the ultimate elimination of all animal testing.”

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According to Mark Lafranconi, section head of Central Product Safety, P&G has taken a mechanistic approach in the search for alternative methods to replace tests with animals. “This approach starts with developing a thorough understanding of the biology involved in specific adverse effect and then targeting key events in the sequence of events leading to that effect. Using this understanding, we have been able to develop methods to monitor changes in these key events and make predictions about possible adverse effects without using animals.”

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Harald Schlatter, science fellow for P&G corporate communications, cited alternatives to skin allergy testing as an example. “Over the past 10 to 15 years, we learned the fundamental basics causing skin allergy. We pretty much understand the biological, biochemical and cellular steps taking place in our skin and our immune system before an allergic reaction occurs,” he said.

That knowledge allowed P&G to develop nonanimal alternative test methods. Codeveloped by P&G scientists, these alternatives are undergoing validation by regulatory authorities in the U.S. and the EU. “We are optimistic that in the coming years these individual alternative test methods can be combined to an alternative ‘test battery’ that will allow us to give a good estimation of the allergy-causing potential of new ingredients  without the use of animals,” said Schlatter.

In the U.S., Canada and in some countries in Asia and Latin America, laws and regulations still require some testing on animals to establish safety in specific cases. These requirements are beginning to change and P&G is working collaboratively with regulators to accelerate the new requirements.

“We advocate eliminating regulations that require research involving animals wherever possible,” said Sauers. To further that effort, P&G works with governments and other organizations to “harmonize” exiting regulations concerning animal alternatives and collaborates with governmental and nongovernmental organizations to raise awareness of alternatives and encourage regulatory changes to eliminate animal testing entirely.

The company defines alternatives with three R’s: replacement of an animal test by a nonanimal test; refinement of an animal test to reduce or eliminate stress or suffering, and reduction in the number of animals needed in a test.

To inform consumers, P&G discusses its efforts in reducing testing in is annual sustainability report and its animal welfare brochure as well as on its P&G Beauty and Grooming Science Web page.

“Eliminating animal testing is an ambitious goal, but working together with many partners who share our vision, we can make this goal a reality,” said Sauers. The use of technology has dramatically reduced the need for animal testing. In fact, computer modeling and information from past studies have eliminated more than 80 percent of animal tests that would have been necessary 20 years ago.