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Cosmetics: A Full Ban on Animal Testing in the European Union Encourages Research on Alternative Methods

By The Editors

On March 11, 2013, a full ban of animal testing for cosmetics entered into force in the European Union. In addition, as of March 11, 2013, cosmetics tested on animals cannot be marketed in the European Union.

The day of the announcement, the European Commissioner in charge of Health & Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg, stated: “Today’s entry into force of the full marketing ban gives an important signal on the value that Europe attaches to animal welfare. The Commission is committed to continue supporting the development of alternative methods and to engage with third countries to follow our European approach. This is a great opportunity for Europe to set an example of responsible innovation in cosmetics without any compromise on consumer safety.”

Credit: National Institutes of Health

Because the European legislation requires proof of safety of consumer products on the European markets, alternative methods to animal testing based on the ‘three Rs’ concept (Reduce, Refine and Replace) are highly emphasized for safety and risk assessment. Thus, the European Commission launched a research initiative to fill current gaps in scientific knowledge and accelerate the development of methods that do not require animal testing.

The research initiative is dubbed SEURAT-1 (Safety Evaluation Ultimately Replacing Animal Testing) and is supported by the European Commission and by the Cosmetics Europe industry for a total of 50 million EUR (Cosmetics Europe matched the funds made available by the European Commission).

The replacement of animal testing for systemic, repeated dose and long term toxicity in humans is a major challenge. This challenge can only be tackled by using an integrated multifaceted platform using an integrated strategy that includes, among others, a systems biology approach, in silico methods and powerful bioinformatic tools. Accordingly, the SEURAT-1 research Initiative is composed of six research projects, which started on January 1, 2011, and will run for a total of five years. These projects will closely cooperate with a common goal and combine the research efforts of over 70 European universities, public research institutes and companies.

The six research projects are:

  1. SCR&Tox, “Stem Cells for Relevant Efficient Extended and Normalized Toxicology”
  2. HeMiBio, “Hepatic Microfluidic Bioreactor”
  3. DETECTIVE, “Detection of endpoints and biomarkers of repeated dose toxicity using in vitro systems”
  4. COSMOS, “Integrated In Silico Models for the Prediction of Human Repeated Dose Toxicity of COSMetics to Optimise Safety”
  5. NOTOX, “Predicting long-term toxic effects using computer models based onsystems characterization of organotypic cultures “
  6. ToxBank, “Supporting Integrated Data Analysis and Servicing of Alternative Testing Methods in Toxicology”

The collaboration between these six research projects, the dissemination of results, the cooperation with other international research teams, and the continuous updating on research priorities will be facilitated by the coordination and support action project “COACH”.

Together, the various projects will help the European Commission to reach the goal of innovating cosmetics testing while promoting animal welfare worldwide. 

One Comment

  • J Laurent

    I hope we here in the US follow the European example and keep animal use only for research, and only if the use of animals for research is fully justified.

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