China’s Food and Drug Administration said this week that it plans to remove its mandatory animal testing requirements for certain cosmetics products manufactured within its own borders after June 2014, prompting two major U.S. groups to call the move a winning one for the American beauty industry.

Under the new ruling, Chinese companies producing “non-special use cosmetics” such as shampoo or perfume will have the option to substantiate product safety, using existing safety data for raw ingredients or European Union-validated non-animal tests instead of having to submit product samples to the Chinese government for testing on rabbits, mice and rats. The ruling does not apply to products that fall into the “special use” categories, which include hair regrowth, removal, dye and permanent wave products; antiperspirant, slimming and sunscreen.

The Humane Society International estimated that as many as 300,000 rabbits, mice and other animals may be subject to cosmetics chemical testing each year in China alone.

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Both the Personal Care Products Council, which counts major beauty companies within its membership base, and the Humane Society International had positive responses Thursday.

“We have, for many years and in every formal interaction or visit we’ve had with the Chinese, pressed for removal of the mandatory animal testing on cosmetics products,” said Francine C. Lamoriello, executive vice president of PCPC. “Our Chinese counterparts have indicated that they’ve heard us. We believe this is a very positive development and one that we will recommend be quickly expanded to include companies which are not presently manufacturing in China — and eventually to special-use cosmetics.”

Troy Seidle, director of the Cruelty-Free campaign by HSI, added, “This news from China marks a major milestone in our campaign and could constitute a significant watershed moment in our global effort to end cosmetics animal testing worldwide. HSI’s team has prioritized efforts to transform the future for animals in laboratories in China. This development is only the beginning of what we hope to be a paradigm shift towards 21st-century science without animals. We will meet with Beijing officials in the coming days to look closely at the detail of this cosmetics announcement, but it looks like there could at last be a bright future for cruelty-free companies in China and hope on the horizon for an end to cosmetics cruelty.” HSI began its Be Cruelty-Free China campaign in the country roughly five months ago, according to Seidle.

The Chinese ruling could pave the way for Chinese-manufactured products not using animal testing to move into EU markets, as EU regulations prohibit cosmetics that are produced using animal testing. It would also allow for EU-based cosmetics companies to sell in China without compromising their no-animal-testing rules.

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