Animal Testing for Cosmetics in China

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Julian Omidi discusses China’s new initiatives regarding animal testing in cosmetics.

Although historically, China might not exactly have its hands clean when it comes to the safety and well-being of rhinos[1] and elephants, it is beginning to make significant strides in terms of its tolerance of animal testing in cosmetics, something that even the United States government has, as yet, been unable to do in a meaningful way.

Animal testing in cosmetic products has become anathema in the Europe.  The European Union, in fact, enacted a law in 2013 forbidding the sale of animal-tested cosmetics. However, China hasn’t had the same active abhorrence for animal testing that many other nations has, and has only recently begun to question its methods for testing common products.  Until recently, there haven’t been any non-animal related testing procedures for cosmetics firms in China, and imported products that weren’t tested in accordance with their own procedures can’t legally be sold.  However, China’s Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it was beginning its own non-animal testing training program, and in June of 2014 will begin to allow the manufacture and sale of domestic “non-specialized” cosmetics whose ingredients have undergone European Union non-animal safety testing.[2]

Because of China’s regulations regarding the sale of non-animal tested cosmetics, some corporations that had previously abandoned animal testing began to again use animal testing methods to satisfy Chinese official safety standards.  While the new regulations do not yet relax the criteria for imported products, ultimately, if the new standards prove successful, China may open the door to the importation of non-animal tested products from Europe and elsewhere.

However, China’s history of animal testing to the exclusion of all other methods has the scientific and animal welfare community concerned that it may not be able to effectively conduct newer tests.  The new regulations specify that the laboratories will only be able to conduct non-animal tests if they possess the requisite expertise on par with that of the European Union and other established alternative testing laboratories.  Unfortunately, it seems that Chinese laboratories are still far from achieving this standard.

The new regulations are a turnaround from the attitudes expressed by Chinese officials as recently as 2012, when the animal testing standards were broadened to include animal testing on certain over-the-counter skin treatments.

Hopefully, China’s burgeoning acceptance of non-animal cosmetics testing will spark some new regulations in the United States, where cruel and unnecessary animal testing still occurs.  Even though more accurate data can be compiled from cosmetic testing through donated human tissue samples (which is also cheaper and faster), laboratories continue to torture animals for the production of soaps, shampoos and anti-aging creams.  If stopping animal cruelty isn’t enough, shouldn’t the significant monetary savings be an enticement, at least?

By Julian Omidi

 

[1] Hongqiao, Liu: China’s many roles in the illegal rhino horn trade 12/16/2013 China Dialogue https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/6577-China-s-many-roles-in-the-illegal-rhino-horn-trade?_ga=1.14420276.2043734224.1399942373

[2] Huang, Shaojie: Interest Grows in Animal Testing Alternatives 5/2/2014 New York Times http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/02/interest-grows-in-animal-testing-alternatives/

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