Tuesday, February 19, 2013

European Parliament Question re:Allergens in Perfumes

The matter of increasing control of suspected allergens in perfumes is both taking wings (with increased  vigilance on the part of the industry) and starting to face opposition by concerned parties (perfume lovers, raw material growers, manufacturing companies etc). Here is the latest I came across regarding a formal plea to the European Parliament apropos the use of Calabrian bergamot in the fragrance and flavor industry.

via www.thekitchn.com
European Question to the European Parliament
4 January 2013
Question for written answer to the Commission Rule 117
Cristiana Muscardini (ECR)
Subject: A bergamot-tinged war? Answer(s)

Here we go again, according to some newspaper reports. The lobbies of certain chemical industries are declaring, via the European Union, that between 1 % and 3 % of the European population are 'potentially' allergic to some ingredients found in perfumes. The proposal to reduce the concentration of essential oils from 12 % to 0.01 % would sound the death knell for bergamot and would see this traditional product disappear from Calabria, the only region in the world that is able to produce this citrus fruit, from which the oils that form the base of many perfumes are extracted. One is tempted to say: 'Here we go again!'
There was an attempt, in the past, to stop pizzas from being cooked in wood-fired ovens, for health reasons. There was also an attempt to harm the production of chocolate eggs containing a 'surprise', this time for reasons to do with the safety of children, who could have swallowed the small 'surprise' objects. Now another attempt is being made with a natural production process that is unique in the world and concentrated along a coastal strip, around 80 km long and 10 km wide, in the region of Calabria. That means that 650 farms, 7 000 workers and 1 300 hectares used for plant production are affected, not to mention the numerous perfume houses that use bergamot essence to establish a fragrance's bouquet.
The industry would like to replace this natural product with a synthetic product, which obviously has nothing to do with the Citrus Bergamia Risso citrus fruit, better known as bergamot.

1. Can the Commission confirm whether the news is true?
2. Does it really intend to support the arguments put forward by certain chemical manufacturers, against a natural product that has kept the perfume industry going for centuries without ever being harmful to health?
3. Can it say whether bergamot essence is patented or recognised by the various EU arrangements for recognising protected origin?
4. Does it not believe that the tea industry will also be compromised, given that bergamot peel is used for the aromatic Earl Grey blend?

[Original language of question: Italian]

EN E-000022/2013
Answer given by Commissioner Tonio Borg on behalf of the Commission (14.2.2013)

The Commission would like to clarify, in response to the first question, that an opinion on fragrance allergens in cosmetic products was issued in June 2012 by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS). This opinion updates the list of fragrance allergens (including natural extracts) relevant to consumers, while confirming that the 26 fragrance allergens already regulated in the Cosmetics Directive[1] are still of concern.

The Commission is currently reflecting on how to implement this opinion so that it contributes to consumer information and safety in the most adequate and proportionate way, while maintaining innovation and the competitiveness of the cosmetics sector. To this end, it is thoroughly assessing the social (in terms of protection of consumers, availability of products and employment) and economic impacts of possible options, taking into account also vigilance data and additional elements of consumer exposure.
As for the third question, Bergamotto di Reggio Calabria Olio essenziale is registered at EU level as a Protected Designation of Origin in the group of essential oils[2].
In relation to the fourth question, the Commission is aware that some food flavourings when used as fragrances in cosmetics may be dermal sensitizers. However, there is generally no concern on allergic reaction via oral exposure. The Commission does not therefore believe that the tea industry risks to be compromised. |

[1]|Council Directive 76/768/EEC of 27 July 1976 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to cosmetic products, OJ L 262, 27.9.1976, p. 169.|

|[2]|Commission Regulation (EC) No 509/2001 of 15 March 2001 supplementing the Annex to Regulation (EC) No 2400/96 on the entry of certain names in the 'Register of protected designations or origin and protected geographical indications' provided for in Council Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92 on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs, OJ L 76, 16.3.2001, p. 7.|

You can draw your own conclusions.
For what is worth, here is an interview with Stephen Welter from IFRA (the International Fragrance Association) from July 2012 where he maintains that the premium goal is the ensuring of safety for consumers (and where it transpires that IFRA is the final testing body which receives applications/suggestions on banning things from SCCS and other lobbies).
This is a most interesting excerpt from it, as per Stephen Weller:
"IFRA has in fact delivered some very positive results. Far from banning certain materials, IFRA has in fact been protecting them from potential bans. A material such as oak-moss would have disappeared if it hadn’t been for IFRA. The EU would have abolished it. In fact, thanks to IFRA’s work, many materials are still capable of being utilised as part of the palette of more that 3000 materials which perfumers can employ in their creative art. There are restrictions on the use of some substances but these are justified when balanced with the safe enjoyment of fragrances for all."

The text of the Parliament question can be found on this link.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Allergens and Perfume Industry Restrictions, The Bergamot Series

Poached this reference on the Fragrantica boards via member Kitty48


  1. I think it is great that people are stepping up and making somewhat of a stand. Not only does it affect the way many classic perfumes and newer perfumes smell, but there is the factor of possibly putting people out of a job. I'm sick of hearing about there is 1%-3% that might be allergic to some ingredients in perfume. I know that I am a perfume fanatic but perfume is not vital for staying alive, eating is. Coming from an American, I am sick of Big Brother trying to control everything and people being so sue happy.

  2. Miss Heliotrope23:58

    I just can't be bothered to cry - people who think this way are a danger to everyone & ought to be locked up. In a room full of perfume ingredients, interestingly traditional food items, and small plastic toys...

    Why don't they ban something truly dangerous, like guns, or unelected people with political power?

  3. Anonymous07:46

    It is difficult not to get depressed about this-and what is he talking about,tea won't be affected?Twinings Earl Grey has been changed beyond recognition,I think they have already substituted the bergamot with some awful lemon flavour and there have been petitions to bring the old Earl Grey back...

  4. Mimi Gardenia10:21

    Hello Dear Elena ! Many hugs and kisses. :) I'm still reading your wonderful blog daily even if I am silent . This whole charade with The blasted EU and their extended list of allergens - I despair and I am once again angry about it all. The EU should not be interfering to the level they have done - threatening a huge industry and people's livelihoods and of course putting so many classic perfumes in danger of extinctiion or drastic reformulations . If 1 to 3 % are allergic then these people need to be responsible for their own health . Just my own opinion.
    I'm also glad to see some sort of stand being taken . Enough is enough Brussels - go fix the economy instead .

  5. Eld,

    I will agree with you. To be able to ask questions and make a stand is the last bastion of democracy.
    And in that I admire Americans, because they're more vocal (and less blasé) than their European counterparts.

  6. C,

    ah, you hit the nail on the head! Probably because there are much more powerful interests behind guns and unelected politicians tugging the strings of us puppets.
    So in an effort to show care, let's occupy ourselves with something truly insignificant like *potential* skin sensitisers.

    Like the man said, IFRA and the EU are "bombarded" by lobbies. If a crazily enough lobby forms, you can be sure they will forward their demands and their demands will have to be considered if they're populous.

  7. Anon,

    yup, it's crazy how tea is not admitted to being affected. I mean, geez, no one died out of drinking Earl Grey, did they?

    Keep up with the petitions, it all has to do with being vocal and making a stand these days, or else someone else will. I say "complain on!".

  8. Mimi,

    hello darling, how sweet of you to drop me a note! How are things? Missed you.
    And thanks for the continued reading. :-)

    As I said above, I think it all boils down to people these days feeling a bit too entitled, being too vocal about something not that serious, considering the plight of the world, and the EU and IFRA being tied in litigation fears and bureaucratic procedures (The man says it clearly, if someone sends over a study or a complaint they NEED to review it and usually that doesn't bode well in the end for perfumes).

    As you so smartly state, the state of the economy and the imbalance in the EU -instigated by a faulty system of integration to begin with- should have been at the core of think-tanks and not something as insignificant as *potential* skin sensitizers to a really tiny segment of the population (who can choose not to use them). I understand that they're not taking chances and that real allergies can be very serious, but surely there are nuanced ways in which to go about things and this insistence is bordering on the excessive and futile.

  9. Anonymous16:19

    I think it's seriously time to make perfume companies indicate when a significant change has been made to a perfume's formula. Not a different batch of rose oil but when a substitution occurs. Perfume companies should have an iteration number indicated on the back of the box below the ingredients, like Miss Dior version 2.4 or something. Or at least on their website. Perfume consumers are the losers of this push/pull game of regulation/restriction and reformulation. If I cannot trust that the perfume I buy today is the same as the one I bought three years ago this is a problem. Not only must we determine that a vendor is reputable and their wares are authentic and stored properly, but now we must wonder what year we will receive and what substitutions the manufacturer has foisted upon us.

    A major change has been made to a product I love that came out in 2007 and was discontinued in 2012. It is not a mainstream perfume and unlike the reformulation of a classic like Opium it is not expected. Had I not broken into one of my backup bottles I would not know of its reformulation. This is not right and the manufacturer is defrauding the consumer by selling it in identical packaging with only the lot year being different. No vendor should be expected to display only tester bottles contemporaneous with the stock that they have on sale. Regulate this if you are going to regulate permissible materials because otherwise you are creating a new problem to solve another perceived problem. It is as if you are sneaking into the Louve and replacing the paintings with photocopies and the sculpture with cardboard cutouts and not telling visitors until they have already bought their admission ticket.

    - L.

  10. L,

    oh if you're making a petition for that suggestion of clearly indicating the batch/version on the box/packaging, I'm all for it. I always maintained that like wines, a production date is of paramount importance to perfume for all these reasons we're discussing so often on these pages.

    Sorry about the change! Urgh... Now, you have me intrigued as to what it is, however! Any clues you might share? (you don't have to say what it is, if you don't want to, of course)

    I recall Lutens admitting that EVERYTHING (modern, niche, mainstream, classic, obscure etc.) is reformulated every couple of years to be on the cutting edge of the latest industry regulations and that though it is not admitted, it happens across the board. I found this refreshingly honest, though if he put some indication on his perfumes to make things clearer to us it would be just as well. ;-)


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