Published: 13 May 2024  (Updated: 14 May 2024)

UK personal care industry is championing an animal-free science future

Cosmetics as a convener of change: the UK personal care industry is championing an animal-free science future

Caroline Rainsford, CTPA’s Director of Science, reflects on the association’s latest cross-sector seminar on Non-Animal New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) and the Government’s upcoming plan to reduce the UK’s reliance on animals in science.

When people ask me what makes me proud about working in the cosmetics and personal care industry, they probably don’t anticipate my answer will have anything to do with animal testing. I think there’s still a perception that this is a topic our industry wants to shy away from. Perhaps because people believe animal testing still takes place. 

To the contrary, today alternatives to animal testing is something our industry leads the conversation on. The UK cosmetics industry completely moved away from animal testing of cosmetic products in 1997 through a voluntary industry initiative, and even before this time cosmetic scientists have been developing New Approach Methodologies (NAMs): innovative alternatives to animal testing. These are not only paving the way for an animal-free future for our sector worldwide, but also providing options for other industries that need to ensure the safety of their chemicals for humans and the environment.  

As the public voice of the cosmetics and personal care industry in the UK, CTPA is privileged to play a convening role on this important issue, championing conversation and change. One side of that work is sharing knowledge and skills with those in our own community. We lead a programme of activities to help industry scientists embrace new approaches and give safety assessors the reassurance they need that data from NAMs are robust and reliable. 

The other side of that work is convening change-makers from beyond our boundaries. Since our first landmark workshop in 2022, CTPA has continued to bring together policymakers, regulators, NGOs, academics and representatives from other sectors to progress conversations around chemical safety assessment more broadly. We are confident that the cosmetics and personal care industry’s evolving work on NAMs can help the UK reach an animal-free science future, faster; and we’re committed to helping that happen.

2024 will be a watershed year for this work. The UK government is drafting a plan for how to reduce reliance on the use of animals in science. Set to be published this summer, the plan will consider how to accelerate the development and validation of NAMs as part of this important goal, providing a timely focal point for our latest cross-sector seminar last month. 

Thanks to contributions from NGOs and the International Collaboration on Cosmetics Safety (ICCS), the workshop explored how other global markets are approaching regulation that supports animal-free science, as well as wider strategies the UK could encompass. With diverse perspectives represented in the room, we could take a holistic approach to how the Government’s new plan might tackle current and future chemical safety testing challenges.

For instance, academics in attendance highlighted how NAMs are not always given the same prominence as traditional animal methods within relevant university-level science education in the UK. But of course, the use and development of more human and environmentally-relevant, protective  methods for ensuring safety is vital for the progress and modernisation of safety science. So, how can we incentivise and accelerate the use of NAMs in academic settings so that these are second nature for the next generation of life and environmental scientists?

Equally, how can we ensure the kind of joined up approach that is needed for the complex challenge of rethinking how we do chemical safety testing? How do we improve lines of communication between Government risk assessors and those within companies submitting safety data for regulatory purposes? How do we facilitate more structured dialogue to encourage companies to take up animal-free approaches, confident that these will be accepted? How can the regulator ensure clarity around the data that they  require? How can diverse Government departments with a chemical safety remit work more closely together? 

Considering the wide range of organisations represented  in the room, there was consistency in what all parties wanted to see. There was a shared appetite to ensure the UK’s new regulatory frameworks have enough flexibility to encourage animal-free methods. A drive to see the UK participate actively in global projects to reduce the need for animal testing. An ambition for the UK to be a leader in developing and integrating non-animal testing methods - and an acknowledgement that targeted funding and incentives could really accelerate the development and uptake of these. 

There was also a shared sense of optimism around the momentum being created by working collaboratively. One of the inspiring case studies we heard during the workshop was from a UK cosmetic ingredient manufacturer who wanted to register a chemical under EU REACH that is used in different  household products. Under the EU REACH regulation, the authorities requested further safety data based on animal tests.  However, the manufacturer was confident it could prove safety using animal-free testing methods, so it collaborated with a wider pool of companies to generate this information, circumnavigating the need for animal testing. It’s this kind of collaborative thinking that will be key to our shared success. 

This month CTPA will finish compiling the key themes that seminar participants identified as being important for inclusion within the Government’s upcoming plan. The recommendations will set out a vision for reducing the reliance on animal-based tests for UK science, moving towards a future where the safety of chemicals can be assessed using more modern and more human and environmentally-relevant methods.  This vision harnesses the progress made by the cosmetics and personal care sector in recent decades and supercharges this with flexible regulation and thoughtfully placed incentives and funding. These recommendations have been informed and inspired by a multitude of voices - and will be all the better for it. 

So categorically yes, our industry’s approach to animal testing is one of the reasons I’m proud of the work I do. Cosmetics and personal care companies may have been the poster child for this practice in the past, but today it is our scientists designing the blueprints for an animal-free science future. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made, and we’re excited to take the world with us.

 

Read more:

CTPA is calling for the UK Government to publish a dedicated UK NAMs strategy, showing our shared commitment to increasing the use and regulatory acceptance of cutting-edge, human-relevant scientific methods to ensure human and environmental safety. This is one of the key asks in CTPA’s Manifesto published ahead of the next General Election this year (visit CTPA Manifesto 2024). 

 

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