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Consumer Products

European court rejects Symrise bid to avoid animal tests

Judgment renders animal testing ban for cosmetics ‘meaningless,’ advocacy group says

by Vanessa Zainzinger, special to C&EN
November 30, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 40

The German specialty chemical firm Symrise will be forced to conduct animal testing on two chemicals used as UV filters in sunscreens after a European court ruling on Nov. 22.

The structure of homosalate.

The chemicals at issue are 2-ethylhexyl salicylate and homosalate, which are both used solely in cosmetic products.

The structure of 2-ethylhexyl salicylate.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) requested the tests in 2018, but Symrise took the issue to the agency’s board of appeal, the first point of call in legal disputes with the agency. The appeal was dismissed, and Symrise took its case to the European General Court in 2020.

The long-running dispute highlights the conflict between a European ban on animal testing of cosmetic ingredients and REACH —a database for the registration, evaluation, authorization, and restriction of chemicals—data requirements.

The EU’s cosmetic product regulation forbids the sale of animal-tested cosmetic products and ingredients. But according to REACH, testing on vertebrate animals must be used if there is no alternative way to demonstrate safe use of chemicals.

Symrise argued that ECHA could not require animal tests for substances used exclusively as cosmetic ingredients because the ban takes precedence over the REACH requirement.

But the court dismissed this argument and ordered Symrise to pay the costs of the case and to conduct the tests requested.

Animal rights groups say the decision opens the door to further animal testing on other cosmetic substances. Responding to the judgment, Cruelty Free Europe declares the animal testing ban “virtually meaningless.”

“This case will set a damaging precedent in toxicity testing for cosmetics ingredients, even if they have been approved as safe for use for many years,” Cruelty Free Europe’s director of science and regulatory affairs, Emma Grange, says in a press release.

The advocacy group supported Symrise in court along with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Unilever, and the European Federation for Cosmetic Ingredients.

ECHA says the judgment confirms how it has interpreted the interplay between REACH and the cosmetics regulation.

The agency notes that while the cosmetics regulation aims to protect consumers it does not address occupational exposure to chemicals.

“To make sure that workers are not at risk, REACH requires safety data on the properties of chemicals they handle, regardless of if substances are used for cosmetics. To protect the health of workers, animal testing may be required under REACH,” ECHA says in an email.



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