Tuesday, March 29, 2005


The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently acted on a petition filed by the Environmental Working Group and warned the cosmetic industry that the agency was serious about enforcing the law requiring companies to inform consumers personal care products have not been safety tested. The fact is that most cosmetics have "not been safety tested" and putting a notice on the label is an exercise in futility.

Do you realize that anyone can go in to the cosmetic business and the FDA does not require pre-testing for safety as it does for pharmaceuticals?

When I checked for The Sixth Edition of A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetics Ingredients just published by Three Rivers Press, the FDA's Cosmetics Office, which deals with the $34 billion cosmetics and toiletries industry, had twenty-five full time employees and no full-time field agents assigned to do only cosmetic work.

There are an estimated one thousand companies known to be producing twenty thousand cosmetics and toiletries. How many others are churning out products? No one knows!

The large and some small cosmetics companies do pre-test their products. Since advertising and promotion are one of their major expenses, they want to protect their investments and reputations. Cosmetic manufacturers may exaggerate the benefits of what they sell but they do not want to physically harm their customers.

If a company receives reports of adverse reactions to one of its cosmetics, alerting the FDA is voluntary. The FDA can take action against a hazardous product only after it receives reports from consumers or medical personnel that there is a problem.

Recalls taken by the cosmetic industry to call back products that present a hazard, or that are somehow defective are voluntary. The FDA is not permitted to require recalls but does monitor companies that conduct a product recall.

If you have an adverse reaction to a cosmetic, report it! You can contact your local FDA office if there is one. If not, contact the FDA, Office of Cosmetics and Colors (HFS-106), 5100 Paint Branch Parkway, College Park, MD 20740-3835, or use the website: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/problems.html#cosmetics.

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