EDQM reports presence of allergenic fragrances in cosmetics sold as “perfume-free”

A study by the European Network of Official Cosmetics Control Laboratories (OCCLs) indicates that some cosmetic products sold throughout Europe still contain excessive levels of allergy-inducing fragrances. Results showed that 7.7% of samples were non-compliant with legislative requirements due to a missing or false declaration of allergenic fragrance compounds and that 3.1% of products marketed as “perfume-free” contained fragrance compounds. This study was co-ordinated by the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines & HealthCare (EDQM) of the Council of Europe as part of its effort to enhance proper market surveillance in Europe.

The most common problems related to the allergenic fragrances found in this study were the presence of linalool, benzyl alcohol and limonene, which Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 (the Cosmetics Regulation) requires to be listed on labels when present above certain thresholds. Regarding perfumes, 41% of tested samples contained allergenic compounds, making this class of cosmetic the least compliant with legislative requirements.

The samples were also checked for compliance with other requirements than those for allergenic fragrances: 12.7% of samples were non-compliant, for reasons such as incorrect labelling or misleading claims. Other problems were related to preservatives not in accordance with the Cosmetics Regulation, to high cadmium content or to the presence of mineral-oil compounds (in lip care products). Two samples also had to be classified as unsafe products: a body lotion containing a prohibited substance (iodopropynyl butylcarbamate – IBPC) and one skincare product sold online which was found to present microbiological contamination.

Susanne Keitel, Director of the EDQM/Council of Europe, stressed the importance of market surveillance: “Ensuring compliance of cosmetic products is key to avoiding potential health risks. The problems revealed by this study demonstrate the continuing need for close co-operation between Official Cosmetics Control Laboratories, in the interest of public health in Europe”.

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