Intergroup meeting: the use of animals for cosmetics testing in the EU

28 Mar 2019
This morning, the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals discussed the continued use of animals for testing the safety of cosmetic ingredients in the EU.

The EU Cosmetics Regulation, adopted in 2013, established an important precedent worldwide by banning animal testing for cosmetic products and for their ingredients. Last year, the Resolution adopted by the Parliament calling for a worldwide ban demonstrated that ending tests on animals for cosmetics remains an important priority for both the Parliament and the EU citizens.

Julia Baines, from PETA UK, explained how the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the Commission are still insisting to test cosmetic ingredients on animals in the framework of the REACH chemicals regulation. Under REACH, animal testing is required for chemicals used in cosmetics when there is a possibility of workforce exposure during manufacturing processes. For substances used not only in cosmetics, tests on animals are permitted regardless of any worker exposure risk. This practice undermines the Cosmetics Regulation and implies that the REACH regulation overrides the animal testing ban.

Civil society and the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice  rejected the idea that the Cosmetics Regulation does not apply to testing required under REACH. The two Regulations, REACH and the Cosmetics one, do not need to be opposed as non-animal methods can be used for the assessment of a wide variety of human health endpoints. Julia Baines ended her presentation by urging the Members of the Intergroup to raise this issue in the elections campaign.

Kerry Postlewhite, from Cruelty Free International, stressed that the EU Cosmetics Regulation was a groundbreaking success. It could only be achieved with the support of the Parliament. This legislation remains one of the most popular pieces of law adopted by the EU institutions.  It had an international impact as it was used by other countries to implement their own ban of animal testing for cosmetics. However, the EU Cosmetics Regulation is undermined by the continued use of animal testing under REACH without the citizens being properly informed about this situation. Kerry Postlewhite called for strong actions by the next Parliament, including an implementation report or a temporary committee of inquiry.

François Busquet, from CAAT-Europe, provided updates on the developments of non-animal approaches in regulatory science to test cosmetic products and ingredients. He introduced EU-ToxRisk, a programme aiming at shifting paradigm in toxicological testing away from animal testing. He presented the current situation in regard of alternatives to animal testing and the development of new integrated and combined animal-free tools. He explained: “The time when one cell test could replace one animal test is over. It is about integrating multiple animal-free tools to cover a health effect guided by mechanistical understanding”.

Events and workshops are necessary to build trust and explain to the scientific community how and when these tools could be used. In silico testing (via computer simulations) offer new opportunities for alternative methods. François Busquet also highlighted the need for data sharing and access to information to support animal-free methods. He stressed: “Computational methods and big data mining are the new eldorado for the scientific community. Artificial intelligence can help to tackle the cosmetics testing ban and more open access to data is required to master the challenges ahead”.

A lively debate between the members of the Intergroup followed the presentation. The members of the Intergroup addressed several key points to put a definitive end to animal testing for cosmetics. They raised the issue of proper labelling and shared concerns on the risk of misleading consumers into believing that their products were cruelty-free. They discussed how to held EU institutions accountable and urge the MEPs of the next Parliament to keep the pressure on the next Commission.