Reducing animal testing: Industry commits to action programme, Commission tables guidelines for labelling cosmetics as “not tested on animals”

June 22, 2006

Brussels, 21 June 2006

The fight against animal testing gets more concrete. Initiated by the European Commission, the new “European Partnership on Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing” published today an action programme. It follows the so-called “3 Rs” concept, aimed at refining, reducing and replacing animal use to meet regulatory safety requirements. The partnership on alternative approaches to animal testing between the Commission, industry associations [1] and major companies [2] in the area of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, crop protection and cosmetics was initiated a year ago. In addition, the Commission has published guidelines for labelling cosmetic products [3] as “not tested on animals”. They will enable industry to indicate that no animal tests have been carried out by the manufacturer and his suppliers in relation to the product development. Common criteria are applied for the use of such claims, in particular to ensure that they do not mislead the consumer or lead to unfair competition. Moreover, industry that chose to have this labelling must be able to prove the reality of the absence of animal testing.

European Commission Vice President, Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: “The European Partnership is an important contribution to find alternatives to animal testing. We are now moving from words to deeds. I invite more companies to join our common efforts to reduce the number of animals used in safety testing in areas such as REACH and cosmetics.”

Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik, added: "We know from public opinion surveys that animal rights are very close to the hearts of Europeans. Through research we can develop ways of offering consumers a greater choice of products that have not been tested on animals. We will continue to support research, development and evaluation of alternative testing methods through the European Research Framework Programme."

The action programme is the first outcome of the commitment to cooperate in fields such as research, validation of alternative test methods and sharing best practice. It includes a number of activities covering five key topics:

  • Mapping of past and current 3R activities to better inform the planning and prioritisation of subsequent actions;
  • Prioritisation, promotion and implementation of future research based on the application of the 3Rs;
  • Identification, dissemination and implementation of best practice in the use of the 3Rs;
  • Implementation of the 3Rs in regulation and decision making, and
  • Validation and acceptance of alternative test methods based on the 3Rs.
Roughly 20% of the tests carried out on animals in Europe can be considered as regulatory testing. They are performed due to high safety requirements in areas such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, cosmetics, biotechnology as well as food and feed. The challenge is to develop alternative methods or strategies that provide for at least the same level of consumer safety as animal tests.

The regulatory framework for safety requirements differs according to industrial sectors, due to the different uses of substances and products manufactured. According to European legislation, animal tests are in principle only to be performed as a last resort. Alternative methods to animal tests are to be applied as soon as they are available.

The promotion of alternative methods has become particular important, since European legislation was reinforced in 2003 by banning cosmetics and cosmetics ingredients tested on animals if validated alternatives were available. Even more, cosmetics will be banned as from 2009 if they are based on animal testing, even if non-animal tests are not available. For a few complex tests methods, this deadline will be 2013.

Similarly, the Proposal for Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) includes specific provisions aiming at promoting alternative approaches to reduce the number of animal tests as far as possible. Applying alternative approaches for getting hazard information, the needs for tests could dramatically be reduced resulting in significant savings in testing costs and use of animals. According to estimations of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, the animal and cost saving potential of intelligent testing strategies over a period of 11 years can be 1.3-1.9 million animals and € 800-1130 million [4] .

Today, 23 alternative methods have been validated in Europe and about 30 others are under validation in the European Centre for Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM). The Action Programme will prioritise and facilitate the validation of alternative methods/strategies currently being developed by ECVAM.

Reports on the implementation of the activities of the Action Programme will be made available at the European Partnership Conference scheduled for 18 December 2006 in Brussels. The Action Programme will be reviewed on a regular basis, in particular in cooperation with a Mirror Group, made up of experts from various interest groups, including animal welfare.

Website Action programme

link to guidelines ‘not tested on animals”

[1] European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC),European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), European Bio-industry Association (EuropaBio), European Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association (COLIPA), International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Product (A.I.S.E.), European Federation on Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), International Federation for Animal Health Europe (IFAH)
[2] BASF, Bayer, Henkel, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Unilever

[3] Commission recommendation establishing guidelines on the use of claims referring to the absence of tests on animals pursuant to Council Directive 76/768/EEC ( OJ L 158 of 7.6.2006 p 18)

[4] According to the “Fourth Report on the Statistics on the Number of Animals used for Experimental and other Scientific Purposes in the Member States of the European Union (2002)” the total number of animals used in the EU Member States in 2002 was 10.7 Million ( COM(2005) 7 of 20.01.2005

Item source: IP/06/814 Date: 21/06/2006

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