PARIS – Symrise has lost an appeal against a European Chemicals Agency, or ECHA, decision requiring animal testing on cosmetics ingredients.
The decision handed down Wednesday to the German fragrance and flavors supplier by the European Court of Justice’s General Court requires animal testing on two formerly approved ingredients used exclusively in sunscreens – UV filter homosalate and 2-ethylhexyl salicylate.
“This decision renders the European Union and United Kingdom bans on animal testing for cosmetics virtually meaningless, as animal testing requirements to analyse the safety of new chemicals – as laid out in the EU’s main chemicals legislation, REACH, and enforced by the European Chemicals Agency, ECHA – have been adjudged to take precedence over the bans on the testing of cosmetics ingredients on animals,” NGO Cruelty Free International, or CFI, said in a statement.
Cosmetics ingredients, as chemicals, fall within REACH and the EU Cosmetics Regulation, which contains bans on animal testing.
The Cosmetics Regulation bans on animal testing — whereby ingredients cannot be used in cosmetics products if they have been tested on animals anywhere in the world — were fully put into force in March 2013. And today, beauty companies largely test their cosmetics on laboratory-grown reconstructed skin.
However, in August 2020, the ECHA announced that some substances must be tested on animals even if they are just destined for use in cosmetics. The ECHA argued that an assessment is needed to establish if there is a risk for workers in factories while the products are made. So animal testing is being requested for hundreds of other ingredients, as well.
The subject of animal testing came back into the fore in the beauty space in a case from March 2018 that involved Symrise. The ECHA ruled Symrise must carry out some toxicity tests on animals for the two sunscreen-related ingredients.
Symrise appealed, but that was dismissed by ECHA’s own board of appeal in August 2021. The supplier subsequently launched two cases in the General Court to annul that August ruling.
The ruling Wednesday does say that under REACH’s Article 25 that beauty manufacturers should “generate information obtained by means other than animal testing ‘whenever possible’ and to undertake such testing ‘only as a last resort.” But the General Court ruled that animal testing must be carried out under REACH where no alternatives are available.
“The Court, wrongly in CFI’s view, sidestepped a provision in REACH which says that the REACH testing requirements apply ‘without prejudice’ to the cosmetics bans – in other words, those bans should take precedence,” CFI said. “The ruling, therefore, turns on its head what EU citizens have been promised. The cosmetics bans were introduced before REACH – hence the need for the ‘without prejudice’ clause.”
CFI said that the two sunscreen ingredients’ toxicity tests that ECHA requires will involve more than 5,500 animals, including rats, rabbits and fish, with a high degree of suffering before their death.
Symrise can appeal both judgements.
European citizens have been vocal about their wish to end cosmetics testing on animals.
“Over 1.2 million people recently demanded the protection and strengthening of the EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics by signing the ‘Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics’ European Citizens’ Initiative [or ECI], which was launched in August 2021 by a coalition of European animal protection groups including Cruelty Free Europe,” CFI said.
As a result, the European Commission said it would begin planning the phase out of animal testing for all chemicals, although it did not address ECI-raised issues.
“The public has every right to feel their trust in the cosmetics bans has been undermined,” said Emma Grange, Cruelty Free Europe’s director of sciences and regulatory affairs. “The European Union has promised to start to draw up a roadmap for the total phase-out of chemicals animal testing in Europe. We need the EU to come clean with the public – that if the cosmetics testing bans remain so toothless, then we are not as far along that path as they thought.
“The process now needs to be accelerated, irrespective of any further appeal in the courts,” she said.