Xu Wei

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FOCUS -

En­try- Exit In­spec­tion and Quar­an­tine Bureau.

Strict safety tests

The Hy­gienic Stan­dards for Cos­met­ics, China’s guide­lines for safety tests on cos­met­ics, were in­tro­duced by the for­mer Min­istry of Health in 2007.

The meth­ods spec­i­fied by the reg­u­la­tion, which is based on guide­lines drawn up by the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment, re­quire that all cos­metic prod­ucts be sub­jected to 17 an­i­mal­based tox­i­co­log­i­cal tests, such as those for acute oral tox­i­c­ity, acute eye ir­ri­ta­tion, skin sen­si­ti­za­tion and a com­bined test for chronic tox­i­c­ity and car­cino­genic­ity.

The skin sen­si­ti­za­tion test uses 20 guinea pigs as sam­ples and a fur­ther 10 as “con­trols”, that is, they don’t un­dergo the tests. Cos­met­ics are re­peat­edly ap­plied to a shaved area on the sub­ject an­i­mal’s back, the con­di­tion of the skin is then com­pared with its con­trol and any changes are noted.

In the com­bined chronic tox­i­c­ity/car­cino­genic­ity test, both the test and con­trol groups com­prise 100 an­i­mals, a 50-50 split of males and fe­males. The tests are con­ducted con­tin­u­ally through­out the an­i­mals’ life spans, usu­ally about a year.

Li Hua, pres­i­dent of An­i­mal Guardians, a non­govern­men­tal an­i­mal rights group, said the prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with the pro­tec­tion of lab an­i­mals stem from the fact that the gen­eral pub­lic knows lit­tle about what hap­pens in the labs.

“Even an­i­mal right ac­tivists such as my or­ga­ni­za­tion are un­able to gain ac­cess to in­side in­for­ma­tion, so the in­dus­try is ef­fec­tively closed to out­siders,” she said.

Im­prove­ments in an­i­mal wel­fare were first in­tro­duced by the Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, which is­sued China’s first guide­lines on the hu­mane treat­ment of lab an­i­mals — in­clud­ing ad­vice on breed­ing, trans­porta­tion and the con­duct of the ex­per­i­ments — in Oc­to­ber 2006.

Since then, the au­thor­i­ties in a num­ber of ar­eas, in­clud­ing the prov­inces of Guang­dong and Hubei, and Bei­jing, have for­mu­lated their own reg­u­la­tions.

Com­pared with the laws and reg­u­la­tions in Western coun­tries, though, some species have been omit­ted from the list cov­ered by the test reg­u­la­tions, ac­cord­ing to He Zheng­ming, a re­searcher with the Na­tional In­sti­tutes for Food and Drug Con­trol.

In an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in 2011, he noted that the na­tional and lo­cal stan­dards in­clude the most-com­monly used species, but fail to cover an­i­mals such as Mon­go­lian ger­bils and do­mes­tic cats.

Search for al­ter­na­tives

The EU ban on an­i­mal test­ing has forced producers to ac­cel­er­ate re­search into al­ter­na­tive tech­nolo­gies. The move is un­likely to have an im­me­di­ate im­pact on com­pa­nies with pro­duc­tion units in China, though, be­cause prod­ucts tested be­fore the ban came into force will re­main on the shelves in Europe.

L’Oreal, which re­cently ex­panded a fac­tory in Hubei prov­ince into its largest pro­duc­tion base in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, has de­vel­oped a Chi­nese EpiSkin model, a fac­sim­ile of hu­man skin con­structed from Asian ker­atinocytes, the dom­i­nant cells in the outer layer of the skin.

In a news re­lease, the com­pany said EpiSkin can pro­vide solid tech­ni­cal sup­port for the new EU reg­u­la­tions be­cause it can be used as a re­place­ment for hu­man and an­i­mal tis­sue in some tests, es­pe­cially those re­lated to cor­ro­sion and ir­ri­ta­tion of the skin. In Europe, the prod­uct has al­ready been cer­ti­fied for use.

In 2011, the CFDA em­barked on a project to iden­tify al­ter­na­tives to an­i­mal test­ing.

The project, headed by He Zheng­ming, is ex­am­in­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of set­ting up a spe­cial body to re­search al­ter­na­tives to tox­i­co­log­i­cal tests on an­i­mals. The group also re­ports on the lat­est de­vel­op­ments in on­go­ing re­search meth­ods and the ap­pli­ca­tion of al­ter­na­tive re­search and test­ing, plus con­di­tions in lab­o­ra­to­ries.

Both He and the CFDA de­clined in­vi­ta­tions to be in­ter­viewed on the project’s lat­est find­ings.

Jiao, the ex­pert from Guang­dong En­try Exit In­spec­tion and Quar­an­tine Bureau, said that the al­ter­na­tive meth­ods have draw­backs. “The meth­ods are still im­ma­ture in terms of test­ing new in­gre­di­ents in cos­met­ics, es­pe­cially the meth­ods of test­ing for chronic dis­eases,” she said.

Cru­elty-free cos­met­ics

Many cos­met­ics com­pa­nies warmly greeted the pro­posal to phase out manda­tory an­i­mal tests among Chi­nese producers.

“We know that many Chi­nese peo­ple have al­ready tried Lush prod­ucts and liked them, so we would love to be able to sell in China,” said Jones from Lush Re­tail.

The Body Shop also wel­comes the sig­nals from the Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties and looks for­ward to sell­ing its prod­ucts in China one day, com­pany spokes­woman Louise Terry told CNN.

How­ever, the com­pa­nies in­sisted they would not make their prod­ucts avail­able in China un­til the re­quire­ment for manda­tory an­i­mal test­ing is aban­doned.

If it comes to pass, the move could also be in­stru­men­tal in al­low­ing Chi­nese cos­met­ics to be mar­keted in Europe. The reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ment for an­i­mal- based tests have long been an ob­sta­cle to that am­bi­tion, ac­cord­ing to Peter Li, Hu­mane So­ci­ety In­ter­na­tional’s China pol­icy ex­pert, who said the so­ci­ety has been in con­tact with the CFDA since June 2012, most re­cently in Septem­ber.

“We tried to con­vey the fol­low­ing mes­sage: China can re­gard the adop­tion of the es­tab­lished non-an­i­mal test­ing meth­ods used in the Euro­pean Union as a way of re­duc­ing costs, re­duc­ing an­i­mal suf­fer­ing, and ad­dress­ing the loss of mar­ket ac­cess for Chi­nese cos­met­ics,” he said.

How­ever, a to­tal ban on an­i­mal-based tests pro­posed by some producers and an­i­mal rights groups has drawn crit­i­cism, even within the EU.

Cos­met­ics Europe, a trade as­so­ci­a­tion that rep­re­sents the in­ter­ests of the Euro­pean cos­met­ics in­dus­try, said the ban is po­ten­tially harm­ful.

“By im­ple­ment­ing the ban at this time, the Euro­pean Union is jeop­ar­diz­ing the in­dus­try’s abil­ity to in­no­vate, par­tic­u­larly for SMEs (small and medi­um­sized en­ter­prises),” said Ber­til Heerink, Cos­metic’s Europe’s di­rec­tor gen­eral, in a state­ment at the time the ban came into force. Con­tact the writ­ers at xuwei@chi­nadaily.com.cn and zhanglei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

ZHANG JIE / FOR CHINA DAILY

Rab­bits are of­ten used as test sub­jects for cos­metic prod­ucts.

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