China is introducing new regulations that makes it possible to phase out animal testing for cosmetics. Shanghai-based lawyer Mark Schaub explains how NGO´s, international pressure and basic market forces have made it possible to give rabbits and mice a happier life, and consumers politically correct cosmetics.
There is little that China’s big cities retail scene cannot offer the eager shopper – flagship stores, bright lights, big lines … However, the long term China expat will still often miss specific items – the lack of a Body Shop … the quirky soaps manufactured by Lush …
The reason for that some brands are not to be found in China is that a number of cosmetics and body care companies have a corporate policy against animal testing. To date China has basically required that such products conduct animal testing as part of an overall consumer safety policy. This practice is now changing … in part.
Chinese rabbits and mice are set to rejoice due to the “Notice on the Adjustment of Cosmetics Registration and Filing Administration” (“Notice”) which was posted on the website of the China Food and Drug Administration (“CFDA”) on December 16, 2013. The Notice states that from July 2014 animal toxicological testing for “non-specialized cosmetics produced in China” will no longer be mandatory provided a risk assessment has been carried out. Chinese manufacturers of such non-specialized cosmetics will be able to evidence product safety by using existing data or European Union-validated non-animal tests and can avoid government conducted tests.
The change had been expected as the CFDA had issued a proposal on its website in November 2013 regarding cosmetics registration and filing. After one month’s public consultation the proposal was considered as having been approved.
Previously Chinese regulations had required all cosmetics to undergo a lengthy approval process known as “toxicological testing” which typically involved testing on animals such as rabbits, pigs and mice.Although the PRC regulations did not specify animal testing as a requirement of such toxicological testing in practice this was often the case.
The ambit of toxicological testing was wide as the “Regulations Concerning Hygienic Supervision over Cosmetics” included “special cosmetics” as being products used for hair nourishment, hair-dying, hair perming, hair removal, deodorant, bleaching treatments and suntan lotion. “Non-specialized cosmetics” include general body care products such as, soap and general skin related products.
In accordance with “Risk Assessment Guide on Possible Safety Risk Substances in Cosmetics” if the risk assessment can ensure consumer safety then such Non-Specialized cosmetics are no longer required to conduct toxicological testing. However, it should be noted that special cosmetics made in China and cosmetics produced outside of China regardless whether special or not will not fall under the new regulation.
Why now? Undoubtedly efforts by PETA and the Humane Society were influential. In particular, PETA funded scientists to provide guidance to Chinese counterparts on alternative testing processes. However, in the end it may well be that the practice of testing cosmetics on animals is increasingly considered as being old fashioned and China wishes to follow international practices. In March 2013, European Union regulators announced a ban on the import and sale of cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals and pledged to push other parts of the world, like China, to accept alternatives. This may also have played a role.