For the First Time in 75 Years, the FDA May Be Able to Regulate the Cosmetics Industry

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For about 75 years, the federal government has not updated its regulations of ingredients in cosmetic and personal-care products, but should new legislation pass, the Food and Drug Administration will be required to evaluate and report on the ingredients of such items as lipstick and deodorant.

“From shampoo to lotion, the use of personal care products is widespread, however, there are very few protections in place to ensure their safety,” said a statement from Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, one of the two U.S. Senators who introduced the legislation.

The new legislation would require the FDA to investigate at least five different ingredients each year, and based upon what’s found, advise companies to either discontinue the ingredient, or continue using the ingredient, and if so, at what levels of concentration.

Most of the bills introduced aren’t made into law, though. In fact, there are more more than 300 bills still waiting for Senate action. However, Feinstein and Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine have the support of both industry leaders and consumer groups, including Revlon, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, and a trade association representing over 600 companies.

Although it might not seem all that big of a deal, the new bill and the support it’s receiving mark a huge shift in the industry. Slate reports that when the FDA was founded, the cosmetics industry lobbied heavily and successfully to keep the agency from regulating it.

“Eighty years ago, it was decided that the FDA would not look into cosmetics,” Center for Investigative Reporting’s senior correspondent Mark Schapiro told Slate. “Even if it wanted to, it would have no mechanism to do so.”

Consequently, strange things can be used in cosmetics and personal-care products. According to the Environmental Working Group, the current regulatory systems allows companies to slip potentially dangerous chemicals into products without needing to prove it’s safe to do so.

There’s also no way for the FDA to force companies to recall dangerous products. It can only ask them to do so voluntarily. The agency can’t even require companies to disclose serious adverse health effects, such as “death, disfigurement, or hospitalization.”

If passed, the new bill would provide the FDA with the authority to order product recalls or require warning labels, and report any serious adverse events to the agency within 15 days of receiving a report
If passed, the new bill would provide the FDA with the authority to order product recalls or require warning labels, and report any serious adverse events to the agency within 15 days of receiving a report

If passed, the new bill would provide the FDA with the authority to order product recalls or require warning labels, and report any serious adverse events to the agency within 15 days of receiving a report. It would also require companies to provide consumers with contact information.

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