In spite of action by the EU, it has proved impossible to establish a realistic timetable for developing alternative methods to animal testing in cosmetics. This is one of the key findings highlighted in the European Commission's annual report on the development, validation and legal approval of these alternatives during 1997. Unveiled on January 6, the report says the Member State are still failing to meet the requirements laid down in the "cosmetics" Directive (76/768) for notifying statistics on the use of animals. Hence infringement procedures could be waiting in the wings.

Hurdles that have to be cleared in developing alternatives to animal testing prompted the Commission to take a decision, in May 1997, to postpone until June 30, 2000 the start of a ban on marketing cosmetics containing ingredients and combinations of ingredients tested in animals. The Commission report confirms that the timetable originally proposed, which sought to put the measure into practice starting in January 1998, under-estimated the problems involved in switching to alternatives. The prospects for making a successful transition seem to be more favourable, but the Commission still feels the postponement decided upon in 1997 was justified. 1999 is set to be a decisive year in determining whether scientifically validated alternative methods will be available toward 2000. An international debate on whether the methods are acceptable for regulatory purposes is due to be initiated by the Commission.

Progress achieved in 1997 was for the most part thanks to action taken by the European cosmetics industry, particularly via the COLIPA (European Cosmetic Toiletry and perfumery Association), which joined forced with the Commission in carrying out an international validation survey. One of the success stories was the validation by European experts of an in vitro test for photoxicity. Other initiatives have been set in motion by the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods...

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