CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER
Industry Gears up to Defeat Regulation
24 Corporate Crime Reporter 31(11), August 3, 2010
The cosmetics industry is gearing up for its battle of the century.
For 70 years, the industry has regulated itself.
But last month, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) introduced legislation – HR 5786 – that for the first time gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to ensure that personal care products are free of harmful ingredients.
Existing law, passed in 1938, granted decision-making about ingredient safety to the cosmetics industry.
“The stakes are rising,” Stacy Malkan of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics told Corporate Crime Reporter last week. “The legislation is a key focal point. They have hired ex-members of Congress, public relations people, and lobbyists to get ready for this.”
The main industry trade group – the Personal Care Products Council – has hired John Bailey – the man who for thirty years headed the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors.
“It’s the first time in over 70 that we have a serious attempt to overhaul cosmetic regulation,” Malkan said. “The system that we have currently is that the industry is in charge of regulating itself.”
“There is an industry funded panel that makes decisions about the safety of ingredients.”
“And then they issue recommendations that industry is free to ignore. It’s a fox guarding the henhouse system.”
“The last time anyone tried to impose effective regulation on the cosmetics industry was in the late 1970s,” Malkan said.
“There was an effort in the 1970s by Senator Thomas Eagleton (D-Missouri). It was a lone effort. It wasn’t like he had big consumer groups behind him to do it. He just wanted to do it.”
put forth a proposal at that time that cosmetics should be regulated more like
drugs, with required pre-market safety assessments.”
“It was similar to this legislation.”
“I got to interview him about this before he died.”
“He said that the FDA said at the time that yes, we need more power over cosmetics, but we are so overwhelmed with other issues, we can’t go for this now.”
“He also didn’t get much support from others in Congress.”
“I think the reason is probably that they thought cosmetics was a women’s issue, so who cares?”
What was Eagleton’s interest?
“He thought self-regulation was a joke,” Malkan said. “Which it is.”
“He put forth this legislation, it didn’t go anywhere.”
“But in response, industry came forth with voluntary programs to show that they didn’t need to be regulated. That’s when they came up with this Cosmetics Industry Review Panel.”
“It’s a panel funded by the trade association. They are housed in the same building as the trade association. They are in charge of reviewing the safety of cosmetic ingredients.”
“For 30 years that they have been in operation, they have only looked at about 13 percent of the chemicals in cosmetics. They do cursory reviews. They look mostly for short term health effects. It’s a panel of mostly dermatologists, not toxicologists. So, they don’t have the expertise to be looking at long-term health effects like cancer.”
“They find most of the chemicals to be safe. But even if they do make recommendations, the industry can then ignore them. And they do ignore them.”
“Jane Houlihan of the Environmental Working Group has examples of 100 products that violate the Cosmetic Ingredient Review recommendations.”
“Also, in response to Eagleton, the industry agreed to a law that required partial labeling. Labeling of everything – except fragrances and contaminants.”
Malkan said that the industry is lashing out at critics and reporters.
“Clearly they are upset and ramping up their efforts to convince the public that they have it handled and we don't need real regulatory reform,” Malkan said.
[For a compelte transcript of the Interview with Stacy Malkan, see 24 Corporate Crime Reporter 31(11), August 2, 2010, print edition only.]
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