Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON — The first major overhaul of the Food and Drug Administration in almost 60 years that would permit states to issue their own labeling requirements for cosmetics — if no federal rules exist — passed the Senate in a 98-2 vote Wednesday.
Attention now turns to the House, where the Commerce Committee is expected to complete work on its version of FDA reform today. The House version is divided into three separate bills expected to be consolidated for a House vote. Language used in the House for cosmetics labeling requirements is similar to that found in the Senate, and so that should remove it as a point of contention when the two bills are reconciled. No date has yet been set for a House vote.
A dispute over the cosmetics and non-prescription drug labeling requirements held up Senate passage of the measure for several weeks. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D.,Mass.) had railed for hours on the Senate floor about what he called unsafe cosmetics and the FDA’s lack of authority over the beauty industry.
Kennedy disliked the original bill, which would have prohibited states from ever issuing cosmetics labeling requirements. Ultimately, Kennedy wrung a compromise from Senate Republicans and the cosmetics industry that would permit states to write their own labeling requirements as long as no previous federal labeling requirements existed for a particular product.
Mike Petrina, vice president for legislative relations at the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrance Association here, said the industry was satisfied with the cosmetics language in the House and Senate plans.
“It’s something we can live with,” he said. “We’re happy we have the preemption of inconsistent state labeling and glad that no additional regulatory authority was imposed on the cosmetics industry.”
Sen. Jim Jeffords (R., Vt.), chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, called the cosmetics labeling compromise “reasonable.” He added, “I am interested to see how many states want to get involved in labeling cosmetics or will rely on the FDA. I suspect they will leave it to the FDA.”
Despite the compromise on cosmetics labeling, Kennedy voted against the bill because he objects to a provision that he said would lower the FDA approval standards for medical devices such as new heart valves, artificial joints, angioplasty catheters and patient restraints.
Sen. Jack Reed (D., R.I.), cast the other “no” vote. The Clinton administration earlier this month threatened a veto of the measure, in part because of the cosmetics labeling language. In a statement issued less than an hour before the Senate vote, the administration alluded to the cosmetics compromise and thanked the Senate for its “responsiveness to concerns that have been raised.”
The administration noted, however, that it still sought changes in the language regarding medical device reviews. But there was no veto threat in the administration’s statement Wednesday.
Jeffords, however, predicted that compromises could be reached with the House and with Democrats on several unresolved issues and that the administration would ultimately sign the bill into law.

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