China makes first move to adopt alternative to animal testing

Cosmetic authority in China proposes in vitro alternative to animal testing

The National Institute for Food and Drug Control in China has released a proposal suggesting an in vitro testing method for cosmetics.

The proposed method is said to be similar to the OECD In Vitro Skin Corrosion: Human Skin Model Test. The test can be used to identify corrosive substances without the use of live animals or animal tissue.

HSI estimates that up to 375,000 animals may have been used to test cosmetics in China in 2015 alone

Instead, the method uses a three-dimensional human skin model comprising a reconstructed epidermis and functional stratum corneum.

The proposed method would see this model used alongside the local interlaboratory harmonisation to verify results.

The move comes as China is said to be undertaking efforts to align its regulatory frameworks with key trading partners across the world.

The proposed method is currently the subject of a public consultation. The Chinese authorities have not made clear what the next steps would be, but The Humane Society International (HSI) has welcomed the move.

Troy Seidle, Director of Research and Toxicology, said: “It is encouraging to see Chinese cosmetics authorities begin to embrace internationally recognised in vitro methods for cosmetic safety. Continued movement in this direction would be beneficial not only for animal welfare, but also consumer safety, scientific and technological development, and global trade.”

Non-animal testing methods could help support trade with international markets, such as the EU, where cosmetic products tested on animals cannot be sold.

Several personal care brands have refused to sell items in the Chinese market because of the country’s strict rules on animal testing. Currently, eye and skin testing on animals is required for all imported and special-use cosmetics and cosmetics ingredients.

HSI estimates that up to 375,000 animals may have been used to meet these requirements in 2015 alone. Earlier this year, the organisation collaborated with Guangzhou CHN-ALT Biotech to support an educational and training programme on superior non-animal testing tools for safety assessment of cosmetics and other products.