Lawmakers Want FDA To Crack Down On Soap Makers

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People who are trying to do good for their families and the planet by living a simple life based on traditional skills are facing yet another assault. Artisanal soap makers say new regulations, proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), will put them out of business. Many soap makers are rural “kitchen table” operations that rely on the income to fund their simple living lifestyle.  Some use milk from goats they raise and ingredients they harvest from the land.

The Handmade Cosmetic Alliance posted this form on its website that can be used to reach out to elected representatives. 

The form includes a statement on behalf of handmade body care product makers that says, in part: “My products comply with FDA labeling requirements and the ingredients are commonly known (i.e, olive oil, oatmeal, sugar, coconut oil, etc).  My best customers are in my community. I cannot afford the user fees proposed in S. 1014. Further, my business has no capacity to do the reporting requirements for each product batch (10-50 units) as it could be several hundred FDA filings per month.” Those who sell online will also be affected.*

The view of Sen. Feinstein and her corporate backers (listed below) is that the Personal Care Products Safety Act (Senate Bill S.1014) will make the world a safer place by scrutinizing “everything from shampoo and hair dye to deodorant and lotion.” She introduced the amendment to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, because of troubling negative health effects from chemicals used in personal care products.  She says the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act should be more progressive like laws in Europe rather than antiquated US regulations in effect since the 1930s.

If the industries that back this law are really so concerned about safety, why don’t they voluntarily make healthy products, like the small time producers already do? I’m calling bullshit.

Problem ingredients Feinstein cites include:

Methylene glycol, (an ingredient in the popular hair smoothing treatment known as the “Brazilian Blowout”) turns into formaldehyde when heated, and exposure has been reported to result in hair loss, rashes, blistered scalps, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, shortness of breath, vomiting and increased risk of cancer.

Propyl paraben, a preservative used in a wide range of products including shampoo, conditioner and lotion, mimics the hormone estrogen and can potentially disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive system disorders. She then goes on to say “consumers deserve to know that the products they use every day are safe.”

Huh? She just said they’re not safe, which is why I and many women already choose to spend a few dollars more on natural products. Feinstein does not propose to ban these dangerous ingredients from soaps and cosmetics, just regulate them with tests and warning labels, fees, and recall authority. She thinks some of these products, though harmful to health, magically become “safe when used by professionals in a salon or spa setting.” My question is; after a half century of so called feminism, why are women still knuckling under to  industry pressure and voluntarily paying to have these poisons applied to their bodies on a regular basis? But I digress.

It sounds like the problem could be more easily solved with an education campaign, and subsidies for the natural soap makers so they could offer their products for less and increase their market share. Why not include them on EBT cards so poor women can buy them — I mean, if you want to really be “progressive,” we need to be able to get them at the Dollar Store.

Other potentially dangerous chemicals Feinstein wants to clamp down on include:

Diazolidinyl Urea, which is used as a preservative in a wide range of products including deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, bubble bath and lotion.

Lead acetate, used as a color additive in hair dyes.

Quaternium-15, a preservative used in a wide range of products including shampoo, shaving cream, skin creams and cleansers.

The new law would require the FDA to review at least five chemicals used in personal care products each year… Wait a minute, isn’t there a revolving door between FDA, industry lobbyists, and Congress? Is this yet another example of bureaucratic job security while the small operator is forced out of business? Remember what happened last year, when the FDA wasted taxpayer (your) money on a stupid claim against Dr. Bronner?

Feinstein says her proposal is a “streamlined national system of oversight” and it won’t cost the taxpayer anything because it’s funded by industry user fees (until they pass the extra cost to the consumer, that is). Big multinational soap makers may be able to manage the increased fees and paperwork called for by Senate Bill S.1014 but the the Handmade Cosmetic Alliance says they will cripple their cottage industries. They tried to explain this to Feinstein without success.

The senator assures the new law encourages public input with many opportunities built in for consumer groups, companies, medical professionals, scientists and the public to weigh in …but according to the Handmade Cosmetic Alliance, they’re already not listening.

“The HCA had several meetings over many months with the sponsor of S. 1014 and presented information to support small business exemptions similar to those the 2011 Food Modernization Safety Act (FSMA). Sadly, a decision was made to use prescription drugs and medical device standards for small handmade cosmetic businesses.  This does not make sense.  My products are soaps, lotions and scrubs made largely with food-grade ingredients found in any grocery store,” according to the letter provided by HCA, that natural soap makers can send to lawmakers.

Companies and brands that support the bill:

Johnson & Johnson, brands include Neutrogena, Aveeno, Clean & Clear, Lubriderm, Johnson’s baby products.

Procter & Gamble, including Pantene, Head & Shoulders, Clairol, Herbal Essences, Secret, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Ivory, CoverGirl, Olay, Sebastian Professional, Vidal Sassoon.

Revlon, brands include Revlon, Almay, Mitchum

Esteee Lauder, brands include Esteee Lauder, Clinique, Origins, Tommy Hilfiger, MAC, La Mer, Bobbi Brown, Donna Karan, Aveda, Michael Kors.

Unilever, brands include Dove, Tresemme, Lever, St. Ives, Noxzema, Nexxus, Pond’s, Suave, Sunsilk, Vaseline, Degree.

L’Oreeal, brands include L’Oreeal Paris, Lancome, Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Kiehl’s, Essie, Garnier, Maybelline-New York, Vichy, La Roche-Posay, The Body Shop, Redken.
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S. 1014 [Congressional Record Volume 161, Number 57 (Monday, April 20, 2015)] [Senate] [Pages S2274-S2275] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

*”As more consumers choose to shop online, it is of growing importance that they have access to the same product information they would see in a store. This bill requires all personal care products sold online to include information that is on the label. Consumers will be able to see all ingredients listed, along with any product warnings and other important information on use.”