Friday, 28 February 2014

A Letter To The EU's Public Consultation On Proposed Amendments To The Cosmetics Regulation

I'm sure most of you are aware that the ever-contentious issue of allergens in perfumery has raised its head again. As has been reported on various sites, the EU is considering making a few amendments to its existing Cosmetics Regulation. If these amendments are implemented, then a) perfume brands would be obliged to declare the presence of more (potentially harmful) materials in their perfumes than they are currently obliged to and b) three substances (HICC [aka Lyral], atranol, chloroatranol) would be banned entirely. The European Commission has set up a public consultation and has invited people to express their views on these proposed amendments.

We are, of course, free to have our own thoughts on whether these amendments would be beneficial. However, I must admit I'm rather puzzled by the muted reaction from several industry observers. Quite a few commentators seem to have taken the stance that the amendments aren't a cause for concern. I'm very happy to be challenged on this, but personally, I can't see how they aren't a cause for concern. Perfumery (and specifically, EU-based perfumery) has already suffered under non-legally-binding 'recommendations'. If some of these are now going to start being turned into laws, the final results may be catastrophic.

A few scentusiasts on Facebook and Twitter have stated that they would appreciate being provided with a model letter which they could send to the Commission, in order to express their opposition to the proposed amendments. I've put together what may be a suitable missive and I've published it below. Please feel free to use it in any way you wish: send it as it stands, in its entirety, or take a few phrases from here and there and weave them into your own words. It's entirely up to you.

The deadline for the submission of views is the 14th of May, which means there's no great rush and I can treat the below as a work in progress. I shall revisit it and tweak it from time to time. Perhaps if any of you would care to leave your thoughts about it, I could take your opinions into consideration when writing the next draft.

You can send your messages to and you can find out more details about the proposed amendments by clicking here.

If you're based in the EU, you may also wish to consider sending a copy of your message to your MEP, but do note that parliamentarians will probably not be involved in this matter in any meaningful way until the public consultation is over.



Dear Madam or Sir

Thank you for providing an opportunity for interested parties to express their views on the proposed amendments to Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 on cosmetic products (also known as the Cosmetics Regulation). As a commentator on developments and achievements in perfume creation, I wish to object in the strongest possible terms to the second of the proposed amendments (which would prevent the usage of HICC, atranol and choloroatranol), specifically in relation to its application to perfume (fine fragrance).

The reasons for my objection are too numerous and complex to describe in detail in this message; I would welcome the opportunity to discuss them further should any members of the public consultation body wish to enter into a dialogue with me. However, I will endeavour to outline the basic grounds for my opposition as succinctly as possible below.

The people of Europe have long prided themselves on their progressive attitudes towards personal liberty, social freedom and creative self-expression. The rights of the individual have been vitally important in this part of the world for centuries. Indeed, many non-European countries view the EU and its member states as a model of forward-thinking open-mindedness. Therefore, it is impossible to understand the rationale behind the aforementioned proposed amendment to the Cosmetics Regulation. There is no doubt that a certain number of perfumery ingredients may cause a certain amount of harm to a certain proportion of the population. However, there is also no doubt that various other, non-perfume-related substances may cause greater or lesser degrees of harm to a greater or lesser proportion of the population. Yet the EU does not propose banning these other substances. Tobacco and alcohol may cause grave harm to those who consume them, but they continue to be readily available. Several different types of food (not least, nuts and shellfish) are potentially lethal to a percentage of the population, yet they remain extremely easy to obtain. Certain fabrics used in clothing, certain plastics used in the manufacture of household products and even certain varieties of paper used in magazines or newspapers may elicit adverse allergic reactions from a sector of the population, but all of these continue to be made and distributed.

In short, perfumery is being unjustifiably singled out for unfair, unreasonable, anti-libertarian legislation. If cigarettes, nuts and various other potentially-harmful goods may be sold and distributed with labels declaring their contents and a warning that they should be used with discretion, then the same policy must be extended to perfumes and perfumery. The citizens of the EU should be allowed to make their own reasoned judgements about the risks they take when they spray a perfume onto their skin, in the same way that they are allowed to make reasoned judgements about the risks they take in other aspects of their lives.

Part of the problem in this unfortunate situation stems from the fact that many people continue to view perfume as little more than a ‘beauty' product, comparable in function and importance to an item of make-up. It would be much more appropriate and much more helpful for EU legislators to see perfume as an integral component of a culture’s heritage, as important and relevant as achievements in, for instance, fashion, architecture and furniture design. If the EU, as a force responsible for the protection of European values and principles, would be willing to acknowledge the creative significance of perfumery, then it would have no choice but to grant the same freedoms to the fine fragrance industry - and to connoisseurs of fine fragrance - as it does to other culturally important pursuits.

Various anti-allergen movements have already succeeded in eroding the heritage of perfumery and, by extension, the heritage of Europe itself. If the proposed amendment to the Cosmetics Regulation is implemented, it is reasonable to predict that the final result would be the destruction of one of the most glittering jewels in Europe’s crown. Further legislation would follow, ultimately preventing EU-based perfumers from creating works of any impact, originality or significance.

Needless to say, this would have dire economic consequences. It is not my intention to delve into fiscal implications in this letter - I am confident that representatives of perfume businesses will express their views on this side of the matter with great force - but I cannot ignore the issue completely. We already have an economic landscape wherein a few brands refuse to sell their perfumes within the EU because doing so would entail making alterations to their work. These brands prefer to restrict their operations to non-EU territories rather than compromise their creations. If the proposed amendment to the Cosmetics Regulation is implemented, there is no doubt whatsoever that more brands would opt to cease trading within the EU and that new brands would not be founded on European soil. The irreversible, damaging ramifications of such a development are all too easy to envisage.

Ultimately, this is an issue of freedom. Officials in positions of authority have a duty to inform the population about possible dangers to health. However, when these dangers are of variable severity and affect relatively small numbers of people, the final decision about exposure to the dangers must be left to individuals. The proposed amendment to the Cosmetics Regulation must be rejected. Anything less than a complete dissolution of the proposal would mark a betrayal of liberty, intelligence, fairness and the very principles on which the EU was founded.

Contact details

UPDATE 23rd April 2014 - The folks at Parfumo have posted an excellent petition which anyone in the world is free to sign. I would urge you to read it (please click on this link) and consider adding your name to it.


  1. Found your blog via an Amazon book review: it's now bookmarked.

    While I have every sympathy with your comments on freedom, I fear these remarks will be of no interest on this Regulation Committee. My detestation of the EU is largely founded on the interference into every aspect of one's life, & hence the diminishing lack of freedom - a matter of seeming unimportance to the majority of folk.

    It's a technical review, therefore the following points might be deemed interesting:
    How many people have been affected personally & directly by these substances? Over what time period? (In other words, is the whole thing a massive waste of time?)
    What fragrances will be affected by the absence of these materials? Are there any substitutes? How will the substituted fragrances affect potential users? (the law of unintended consequences)
    Will the removal of the suggested chemicals diminish the quality of the frangrance - eg. the keeping quality, or the individual wearability

    Those of us who remember certain fragrances, & find today's versions pale imitations, are aware that fragrance houses change their formulations (mostly, to suit their pockets). I would hope that much behind-the-scenes communications are happening, as this is a secretive industry!

    1. Princess, first of all, thanks very much indeed for stopping by and for bookmarking.

      Yes, I take your point about this being a technical review. I'm hopeful that people who are in a better position than I am to provide quantitative responses to the questions you raise will send their stats to the public consultation. They would certainly be able to paint a very bleak picture of the effects of the proposed amendments: the banning of Lyral and the two other materials would force the reformulation of the vast majority of current perfumes.

      As for the allergic effects of these substances... I have to be given any conclusive info on this by anybody.


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