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Friday, May 03, 2002

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Colour dot labels for cosmetics in, drugs out

P.T. Jyothi Datta


IN case you have run across the sole `vegetarian toothpaste' in the market-place, there's more. Soon consumers may be able to decide whether they want to pick up a `non-vegetarian' soap or a `vegetarian talcum-powder'!

The Union Health Ministry is contemplating extending its coloured dot labels scheme to the cosmetics segment, even as the labelling scheme has been rejected for the drugs segment.

Only recently, the Ministry had notified the mandatory green dot labels for all vegetarian food. The brown dots for non-vegetarian food had been notified in late-2001.

Highly-placed Health Ministry sources told Business Line that the Government was contemplating extending the "dotting-scheme" to the cosmetics category, as it was a category where there was no compulsion to use and consumers had the right to be informed about the content in their cosmetics.

However, a similar proposal for the drugs and pharmaceuticals segment has been rejected by the Drug Technical Advisory Board, at a meeting earlier this month, the source said.

"As per initial discussions, the colour scheme for vegetarian and non-vegetarian cosmetics will be the same as applied in the case of food-products. Cosmetics would be labelled as non-vegetarian, if it contained ingredients that the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act defined as non-veg," the official said.

It was first thought that the dot-labels would be extended only to "indirectly injected products" like toothpaste and lip-sticks, the source said.

But it was later decided to extend the mandatory labelling system to the entire cosmetics category - from toothpastes, to talcum-power, gels, lipsticks, soaps, nailpolishes. So it's time now for the manufacturers of Lakme, Revlon, Colgate, Palmolive, Camay and Sunsilk, to mention just a few of the affected, to get their act together.

"Dotting for the drugs segment was dropped as it was argued that medicines were not taken by choice, but on compulsion. And some of the drugs are in the life-saving category. Introducing a colour scheme of labelling here would only cause confusion among patients and this argument has been accepted by the Government,'' the official said.

Responding to whether the PFA can be applied to cosmetics too, the source said that the Act's definitions of vegetarian and non-vegetarian were comprehensive. On the eternal debate on whether nutraceuticals were a food or a drug, the official clarified that they would have to sport the labels if they have a licence under the PFA.

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