New cosmetic products and ingredients are tested to ensure the products are safe to use. For the investigation of possible human health effects, animal tests have historically been used, as they best represented the overall effect of a chemical on a living human. However, as technology has advanced, there has been an international move away from the use of animals for this purpose. Animal tests are expensive, time consuming to conduct and are questioned on both ethical and scientific grounds.
Evidence held by the regulator shows that new animal test data are rarely used to introduce new cosmetic chemicals onto the Australian market.
During the 2016 Election campaign, the Australian Government committed to introduce a ban on cosmetic testing on animals. As announced in the 2017-18 Budget, the Government will implement this commitment through a package of legislative and non-legislative initiatives:
- Introducing legislation to enable a national ban on the use of new animal test data to support the introduction of chemicals used solely in cosmetic products;
- Working with states and territories to incorporate a testing ban through their respective legislation, triggered by changes to the National Health and Medical Research Council Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes; and
- Working with the cosmetics industry, in consultation with key animal welfare stakeholders, to develop a voluntary code of practice on the sale of cosmetic products.
The first part of this package will be implemented through the reforms to the regulation of industrial chemicals. On 1 June 2017, the Industrial Chemicals Bill
(the Bill) was tabled in Parliament. As an integral part of wider reforms to the regulation on industrial chemicals, the Bill bans the use of data derived from animal tests conducted after 1 July 2018, to support the introduction of a new chemical intended for use in a cosmetic. The Bill was subject to an inquiry by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee
and passed the House of Representatives on 17 October 2017. The Bill is now before the Senate for consideration.
The ban described in the Bill aligns with the current arrangements for the regulation of chemicals used in cosmetics in the European Union. Rules supporting the new legislation will also encourage the greater use of alternatives to animal testing.