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The UK may restart animal testing for cosmetics

Animal testing has been banned in the UK since 1998, but a recent Home Office decision could change that

The UK may restart animal testing for cosmetic ingredients for the first time in 23 years. 

According to a letter from the government, the UK will align with a decision by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) which states that some cosmetics ingredients must be tested on animals to ensure safety. This decision, however, opposes the EU’s regulations, which ban the practice.

Specifically, the ECHA ruling states that German fragrance and flavour manufacturer Symrise should use animal testing on two substances – which are often used in cosmetics – in order to meet chemical safety regulations. One of the two chemicals, homosalate, is commonly used as a UV filter in make-up and personal care products.

Animal welfare charity, Cruelty Free International, told the Guardian that the government’s decision will be “blowing a hole” in its history of leadership regarding animal testing. ​​

“The government is saying that even ingredients used solely in cosmetics, and with a history of safe use, can be subjected to animal tests in the UK,” said Dr. Katy Taylor, the charity’s director of science and regulatory affairs. “(It) makes a mockery of the country’s quest to be at the cutting edge of research and innovation, relying once again on cruel and unjustifiable tests that date back over half a century.”

In 1988, the Labour party passed legislation with hopes of banning animal testing across the EU. Later, in 2004, the EU banned animal testing for finished cosmetic products and in 2009 for cosmetic ingredients.

In response to Cruelty Free International’s warnings, a spokesperson for the government explained that animal testing will be used minimally. “Under UK regulations to protect the environment and the safety of workers, animal testing can be permitted, where required by UK regulators, on single or multiuse ingredients,” they said. “However, such testing can only be conducted where there are no non-animal alternatives.”

Last May, China ended mandatory animal testing for a majority of cosmetics – furthering its journey towards cruelty-free beauty. Previously, the country restricted cruelty-free beauty brands (such as Fenty Beauty) from directly importing products unless they paid for testing.

According to the National Medical Products Administration website, the majority of products – including shampoo, body wash, lipstick, and makeup – can now be imported without animal testing.