LONDON – British authorities have launched plans to allow animal testing for ingredients used in cosmetics, breaking the ban on the practice that has been in place for more than two decades, animal welfare activists have warned.
In 1998, the then Labor government banned animal testing of finished products and cosmetic ingredients in the UK, years before the EU’s ban on animal testing for cosmetic ingredients. introduced in 2009, regardless of the existence or not of non-animal alternatives.
In a letter from the Home Office to animal charity Cruelty Free International (CFI), first obtained by the Guardian newspaper, officials say the UK will align itself with a decision by the appeal board of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which says that some of the ingredients must be tested on animals before they can be used by humans.
ECHA’s decision, dated August 2020, concerns German fragrance producer Symrise and says EU regulations on animal testing for cosmetics do not preclude the need to comply with the legislation European Commission on chemicals.
The Home Office’s Animal in Science Regulatory Unit wrote in the letter that the UK has now “aligned its approach with the European Chemicals Agency’s Board of Appeal in the Symrise case “.
However, the ban on animal testing for finished cosmetic products, as opposed to individual ingredients, will remain in place, according to the letter sent to CFI last week.
The letter added that the Home Office would set out its position in an “updated policy and regulatory guidance on the regulation of animal testing.”
Katy Taylor, CFI’s director of scientific and regulatory affairs, said the decision “cuts a hole in the UK’s long-standing leadership on non-animal testing for cosmetics and mocks the country’s quest for to be at the forefront of research and innovation, once again relying on cruel and unjustifiable tests dating back more than half a century.
Anand Menon, UK director on a Changing Europe Think Tank, said it was one of the first clear examples of political divergence between Britain and the EU.
“The issue of divergence from EU rules is going to be crucial,” he said. “The extent to which we decide to regulate differently in key areas such as medicines or medical devices will be fundamental to our economic relationship with the European Union. “
A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said: “There has been no change in our legislation and the ban on the use of animals to test finished cosmetic products remains in place.
“Under UK regulations to protect the environment and worker safety, animal testing may be permitted, when UK regulators so require, on single-use or multiple-use ingredients. However, such tests can only be carried out where there are no non-animal alternatives, ”the spokesperson added.