FDA Will Not Regulate Cruelty Free Labels On Cosmetic Products

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – New surveys find most Americans oppose animal testing and look for the label that shows cosmetics and personal care products are “cruelty free.”

But when you see that label on a product, it may not mean what you think.

Here’s a cosmetics quiz: when you see make up, lotions and other personal care items that say “cruelty free” and “not tested on animals,” what do you think that means?

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports

“They just don’t test it in animals at all,” said consumer Jacinta Leonardo.

Said shopper Patricia McGarry: “I clearly think that means not tested on animals. I mean what else are you going to think?”

The correct answer? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says there is no specific definition and it’s web site cites “no legal definitions for these terms.”

The F-D-A admits that as a result, “the unrestricted use of these phrases by cosmetic companies is possible.”

“The Food and Drug Administration says they will not and do not regulate those terms,” said Vicki Katrinak of the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics.

“Therefore companies have free will to say whatever they want, make their own no animal testing claims and have no data to back it up.”

This loophole could lead a company to claim it’s product is “cruelty free” when it’s contracting with third parties or outside labs that DO use animal testing.

“The component ingredients could definitely be tested on animals,” Katrinak said.

But Nancy Beck of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says fewer companies test on animals today.

“Many companies are putting big investments into developing new methods that don’t depend on the use of animals because of public opinion against the practice,” Beck said.

So how do you know if a product is okay? Sometimes it’s not very easy to tell.

But now there are simple ways consumers can find out if a product is truly cruelty free.

The groups People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics have lists on their web sites of companies that don’t test on animals.

Both organizations also license their own “Bunny Logos” which consumers can look for on products to help avoid cosmetic claim confusion.

The F-D-A isn’t saying whether it has any plans to regulate the terms “cruelty free” and “not tested on animals” in the future.

For lists of companies which really don’t test on animals, go to www.peta.org or leapingbunny.org.

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