The European Commission officially recognized on Thursday, September 13th, it would be impossible to fill the gaps regarding alternative methods to animal testing by the 2013 deadline. However, the Commission added not to have the intention to propose postponing the deadline. “Instead, the Commission is currently assessing the impact of the entry into force of the ban in 2013 without alternatives and will decide on next steps on the basis of the full impact assessment,” the European institution said in release.

Testing finished cosmetic products on animals has been prohibited in the European Union (EU) since 2004, as with animal testing of ingredients since 2009. In addition to these, after March 2009 there has been a marketing ban on selling cosmetic products within the EU containing ingredients that have been tested on animals after this date, irrespective of the place of testing. However, some very complex tests [1] remain exempted from these various prohibitions until a general marketing ban comes into force in March 2013. It is precisely for these tests that solutions for replacing animals will be missing by the deadline.

200 million euros aver 20 years

In the report presented to the European Parliament and Council, the Commission highlights the continued commitment in Europe to find alternative approaches.

"Over the last 20 years more than 200 million euros has been dedicated to research in this area in the EU and the commitment to finding alternatives to animal testing continues both in Europe and worldwide, said John Dalli, Heath and Consumer Commissioner. This research and development has not only reduced the number of animals used in testing, it is at the same time yielding important results in terms of better science to the benefit of consumer safety."

Validated alternative methods are now available for the identification of corrosive substances, skin irritants and severe eye irritants, skin phototoxicity and skin penetration as well as to assess genotoxicity. Furthermore, significant advances have been made in many other areas.

The Commission says that research efforts regarding alternative testing on animals will be carried on, both at the European level, in partnership with the industry, and at the international level, in particular in cooperation with the USA, Japan and Canada.

Next steps

The European Commission, which is currently assessing the environmental, animal welfare, economic and social impacts of the implementation of the full marketing ban scheduled for 2013, will announce its final decision by the end of 2011. The Commission says that, while full replacement is not possible by 2013, “there is potential for partial replacement strategies and developing a ’toolbox’ of test methods to be improved until the goal can be reached.

For its part, Colipa, the association representing the European cosmetics industry, welcomed the Commission’s report, considering it highlights the progress achieved and the efforts of the industry to put a final end to all animal tests. Regarding the next steps, Bertil Heerink, Colipa’s Director General, said to be ready to provide the Commission with “any further input required” for the forthcoming impact assessment and the development of partial replacement strategies.