firms scrap animal testing / Ito En, Shiseido take lead in consideration
of EU, U.S. markets.
En, Ltd., a major beverage maker based in Tokyo, abolished animal testing
at the end of April, while cosmetics giant Shiseido Co. aims to do so within
the company by March next year and abolish the practice completely, including
through outsourcing, by March 2013, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.The
companies decided to scrap the tests, eyeing European and U.S. markets,
where animal rights movements are strong. In Europe, sales of cosmetics
developed via animal testing are regulated. Since it is the first time major
Japanese companies have decided to abolish animal tests, the move likely
will affect other corporations. According to Ito En, the company decided
to abolish animal testing through talks with animal rights organizations
in the United States, the company's major export market, and also because
it learned that two major U.S. beverage makers have abolished the practice.
"It's an inevitable step as we take our business global," a staff
member said. Ito En had experimented with animals, mainly rats, to verify
the effectiveness of catechin, which is a substance in green tea. From now
on, however, the company will adopt alternative testing methods such as
using human cells. Yet animal tests are required to obtain government authorization
of foods for specified health use. The company said it would outsource animal
tests in case the data derived from such procedures become necessary in
the future.Shiseido has not performed animal testing in its cosmetics research
and development since the latter half of the 1980s and has limited such
tests to the application of cosmetic materials. This spring, the company
decided on a policy to completely abandon the practice, in accordance with
European Union regulations. The EU has banned animal testing of cosmetics
and their materials since March last year. The EU also prohibited sales
of cosmetics that used animal experimentation conducted outside the EU,
except for five kinds of testing, such as repeated dose toxicity studies.
The EU is calling for a total ban on animal experiments by March 2013.
European business accounts for 11 percent of the company's total sales.
Although Shiseido has not revealed the actual conditions of its experiments,
a company official said, "We'd like to deal with the situation positively,
as a socially responsible company, and plan to offer opportunities to exchange
opinions with experts and animal rights organizations."In Japan, product
safety data based on animal testing are required in principle to receive
government approval for using new, quasi-drug elements. Concerning the problem,
the Shiseido official said, "We'll shift our production policy from
developing new materials [that traditionally require animal testing] to
utilizing conventional materials." There are many small and medium-size
cosmetics companies that do not conduct animal tests. However, animal tests
are performed within major companies, including irritability tests on the
eyes and skin of rabbits and other creatures. Fusako Nogami, director of
the civic association All Life in a Viable Environment (ALIVE), said she
hoped corporations would make products without sacrificing animals to the
greatest extent possible. "It's a big problem compared with foreign
countries, because Japan has no effective law to protect animals from animal
experiments and no system to monitor them.
Therefore, we can't grasp the actual conditions," she said. Hajime
Kojima, chief of the new experiment evaluation office at the National Institute
of Health Sciences, said unnecessary animal testing should be avoided. "Although
alternative testing methods still have their limits, we've promoted the
development of new technologies, including utilizing iPS [human stem] cells,"
he said. "More support from the government is necessary so Japan's
chemical industry won't lose the ability to compete in international markets."