Did you know that cosmetic products and ingredients do not require FDA approval before heading to market? Despite the requirement that all imported cosmetic and personal care products meet the same standards as those produced in the US, that responsibility falls on the foreign companies and the FDA says it only has the staff to check a small portion. This was made clear in a letter from the FDA to Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, who had previously sent a letter voicing his concern about imported personal care products.
To provide a better idea of just how understaffed this checking program is, only 9,871 of the 2.9 million personal care and cosmetic entry lines were checked. Of those checked, roughly 15% were found to have violations. This is a significant rate. There are only six full-time FDA staff members who work in this program. These six people are responsible for checking imports from 181 countries and over 29,000 businesses. The letter detailed that with limited resources, this is the best the FDA can currently do.
What does this mean?
It goes without saying that imported cosmetics that haven’t been checked by the FDA could fail to meet important health and safety standards. According to Cosmetics Design, most contaminated products come from China and commonly have violations for illegal colorants and microbial contamination. Still, prohibited and dangerous ingredients could be finding their way to US consumers.
Luckily, the newly introduced Personal Care Product Safety Act could change all of this. If passed, foreign companies would be required to register with the FDA. The FDA would collect fees as part of this process, which would in turn create more resources to check more cosmetics. Additionally, this act would provide the FDA with more power and control over product regulation which would allow them to investigate ingredients and include more labels on products.
For more on how the FDA currently regulates cosmetic products, visit this page.