On November 22, the First Chamber of the General Court has dismissed actions seeking annulment of ECHA Board of Appeal decisions requiring Symrise to test certain chemical substances on vertebrate animals. [1] Indeed, in August 2020, Symrise was required to carry out several toxicity tests on animals on two chemical UV filters (homosalate and 2-ethylhexyl salicylate), used exclusively in sunscreen formulations, to fulfil ‘tick-box’ registration requirements for worker safety under the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation [2].

The General Court acknowledges Article 25 of the REACH regulation, which allows to undertake animal testing “only as a last resort.

According to the General Court, testing requirements as laid out in the EU’s main chemicals legislation and enforced by ECHA therefore take precedence over the strict ban enforced since 2013 under the Cosmetics Regulation.

Anger and disbelief from animal protection NGOs

Animal protection NGO Cruelty Free International has expressed anger and disbelief at the ruling by the General Court. “This decision makes bans on animal testing for cosmetics in the European Union and United Kingdom virtually meaningless,” said the organization.

In one fell swoop, the court has sentenced thousands of rats, rabbits, and fish to agonising suffering and certain death in cruel tests and rendered the ground-breaking ban on animal testing for cosmetics worthless,” commented PETA Senior Science Policy Manager Dr Julia Baines. “PETA condemns the European Court of Justice for ignoring the purpose of the cosmetics animal testing ban, which was to ensure that only superior non-animal methods are used to assess the safety of cosmetics.

According to pan-European animal protection organisation Eurogroup for Animals: “These loopholes in the cosmetics animal testing ban are indicative of a regulatory system that is, at the moment, unable to follow scientific progress on non-animal testing approaches. This is why it is imperative that the Commission delivers on the promise for a roadmap towards phasing out animal testing for chemical safety assessments.

Consumer confidence

After several years spent explaining to consumers that no animal tests were anymore carried out to test cosmetics sold in the European Union, the decision of the Court of Justice poses numerous problems for beauty and personal care brands. Consumer confidence might be seriously undermined by the new legal situation.

In 2021, The Body Shop and Dove joined forces with several animal rights organizations to protest ECHA’s decisions. An online petition had collected more than 1.2 million signatures.

Over 1.2 million European citizens expected that their demands would be heard when they signed our [European Citizen’s Initiative], but they clearly have not. The public has every right to feel their trust in the cosmetics bans has been undermined," concluded Dr Emma Grange, Cruelty Free International Director of Science and Regulatory Affairs.