July 11, 2018

BREXIT: Safety Impact on UK Cosmetic Consumers?


BREXIT is a complicated and divisive issue that has attracted huge public and media attention since the UK referendum. Much of the focus has been on key issues such as the movement and rights of people, the Customs Union and the Irish border – however the UK is also deeply involved in a huge web of EU regulatory systems and legislation. There are instances when these regulations are perceived as bureaucratic and obstacles to business, however a more reasoned viewpoint is that these regulations afford EU consumers, workers and the environment valuable protection that is lacking in many other areas of the world.

The EU Cosmetic Regulation EC 1223/2009 was introduced across Europe in 2013 and has become recognised as the world standard in protecting consumers from the potentially harmful effects of unsafe, inappropriate and poorly manufactured cosmetic and personal care products. The huge global cosmetics industry has fast-moving trends, complex supply chains and thousands of ingredient substances – all of which can lead to consumer exposure to harmful, sensitising, contaminated and misrepresented products. The EU Cos Reg attempts to combat the threats through three principle areas:

Pro-active assessment of products before release to market. This primarily focuses on product safety through prescribed testing and assessment techniques, but also covers efficacy claims and appropriate labelling / consumer communication. The goal is to ensure only safe and acceptable products are placed on the market.
Reactive mechanisms to deal with urgent safety issues. This consists of a series of measures to address events such as serious adverse reactions to a product or discovery of an unsafe / contaminated product. In essence it allows rapid enforcement and / or communication of technical information to support healthcare, customs and safety-related authorities across the EU so they can quickly deal with a serious safety problem or risk.
Regulatory development infrastructure. This is a series of organisations, methods and structures through which the Regulations can keep pace with the fast moving beauty industry – ensuring that consumers are kept safe while innovation continues.
While the outcome of BREXIT on regulatory frameworks is currently unknown there are likely implications on the above elements when the UK leaves the EU and its associated organisations. While the pro-active elements could still be undertaken there is a question over how they would be enforced and how EU-based tools and data would be replaced. The reactive elements are likely to be stopped or seriously degraded within the UK, while it is also likely that the UK would lose access to information and influence of future regulatory development.

All of the above presents a serious threat of UK consumers losing protective measures designed to guard against unsafe products or adverse reactions to product use. It could also lead to a less regulated UK market with an increased inherent safety risk to consumers.

Following various investigations MSL are currently unaware of any UK contingency plan to address the above matters should the UK lose access to the EU Cosmetic Regulation and its associated facilities. Given the chance that access could be lost as soon as March 2019 MSL will continue to engage with and lobby UK authorities, industry organisations and politicians to bring focus to this subject and prepare for BREXIT in practical terms.

In addition to involvement with UK policy influencers MSL has established a presence in Ireland to provide full support for sales into the EU market and will consider establishing a voluntary UK cosmetics safety system if there is a regulatory void after BREXIT. MSL believe that neither ‘Remainers’ or ‘Brexiteers’ should be exposed to unsafe cosmetic and personal care products and will continue to pursue this goal through the challenges of the BREXIT process.

For information, questions or further dialogue on this or other cosmetic regulatory subject please contact alex.fotheringham@msl.io.

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