Drug Controller signals end to animal testing

It could signal the beginning of the end to testing cosmetics on animals.

The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) is said to have called for the fast-tracking of the deletion of two, final animal-tests from safety standards that govern cosmetics.

The DCGI diktat, when formalised, will cover a range of products from eye-liners and lipsticks to shampoos and face-washes, involving companies including Unilever, Loreal, Pfizer and Himalaya.

Companies wanting to test cosmetic products or ingredients for specific effects will have to submit a non-animal testing proposal to the DCGI for approval, said Alokparna Sengupta with Humane Society International (India), an international organisation working to protect animals.

It is expected that the Indian cosmetic standard IS4011 will be amended to reflect the changes, as directed by DCGI, she added. The direction from the DCGI came at a meeting of the Bureau of Indian Standards’ PCD19 Cosmetic Sectional Committee, she said, adding that the Humane Society was a special invitee to the meeting. The DCGI’s move marks the beginning of the end of acute oral toxicity (lethal poisoning) and oral mucosal irritation animal testing for cosmetic purposes in India, she said.

In the absence of non-animal alternatives at present, validation by the regulator will be done on an individual basis, a source familiar with the development said. The regulator is also looking at norms in the European Union, where animal testing for finished products was banned in 2004 and on new ingredients was banned in 2009, said Sengupta, Humane Society’s manager of the “Be Cruelty-Free” campaign.

In a couple of weeks, the EU is set to ban even marketing of cosmetic products that have animal-testing, done directly or indirectly through a third party chain, she added.

Industry mum

Industry representatives who participated at the meeting, however, remained tight-lipped on the development, preferring to wait for the minutes of the meeting to be circulated by the DCGI’s office.

Large companies have discontinued testing cosmetics on animals for about a decade now, says a veteran scientist, who has worked with consumer goods majors. Where non-animal alternatives are present, industry does opt for them, and that is the norm in India. But, in the interest of consumer safety, it may not be possible to entirely ban animal tests, he added.

Animal right campaigners have for long advocated the ban of testing cosmetics on animals including rabbits, leading to a slow but steady increase in the numbers of ethical consumers looking for the cruelty-free label on products.

jyothi.datta@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 26, 2013)
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