European Commission answers priority question on the scope of the ban on animal testing for cosmetics


European Commission answers priority question on the scope of the ban on animal testing for cosmetics

1 December 2020
The European Commission recognises that animal testing should be phased out in the EU, but maintains that tests of cosmetic ingredients can be carried out on animals

The European Parliament asked the following priority question: 

In its joint note with the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) of 2014, the Commission limited the scope of the EU’s cosmetics animal testing ban to animal testing for ingredients solely used in cosmetics, and included an exemption for testing nominally carried out for worker safety (even though the tests for worker and consumer safety are identical).

1. In the light of the decision taken in August 2020 by the ECHA Board of Appeal on two related appeals brought by Symrise to require animal tests on ingredients exclusively used in cosmetics, does the Commission agree with this highly restrictive interpretation?

2. Can it clearly set out what it believes now remains within the scope of the cosmetics testing ban, as workers will be exposed to virtually all substances?

To which the European Commission replied that the two decisions of the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) Board of Appeal (BoA), based on the REACH and the Cosmetics Regulations, are fully in line with the Commission Communication of March 2013 and the ECHA and Commission joint statement of October 2014. 

The main objective of the Cosmetics Regulation is to ensure the safe use of cosmetic products by the end users (e.g. consumers). Article 18(1) prohibits the placing on the market of cosmetic products where the final formulation, in order to meet the requirements of this regulation, has been subject to animal testing. 

Those requirements refer to the health of the end users. However, the risks arising from other sources of exposure than the end use of cosmetic products are not assessed under the Cosmetics Regulation, as this regulation does not address the risks to workers exposed to chemicals used as ingredients in cosmetics, nor emissions of such substances into the environment. 

The risks to workers are addressed under the EU occupational safety and health Directives, complemented by REACH. The way end-users are exposed to ingredients of cosmetics is different from workers’ exposure to those substances during production. 

Out of 23 000 substances registered under REACH, around 150 are exclusively used in cosmetics. The cases addressed in the ECHA BoA decisions are the first two cases after the 2013 cosmetic animal testing ban, for which the need for a test on vertebrate animals has been confirmed for substances exclusively used in cosmetic products. 

The promotion of alternative methods to animal testing is one of the objectives of REACH and the test on vertebrates is only acceptable as a last resort. The Commission shares the conviction that animal testing should be phased out in the EU and continues to work towards this goal.