Users must know what cosmetics have

A government notification calling on the cosmetics industry to label products to indicate whether ingredients are derived from animal products should be seen as a victory for consumer rights.

 Consumers have the right to know the contents of products they use as they need to make informed decisions. The notification mandates that products such as shampoos, soaps, toothpaste and other toiletries will have to carry on their packaging a red or brown dot for products of animal origin and a green dot for products of vegetarian origin. The animal/vegetable marker on cosmetics, though a step in this direction, is not enough. The details of the contents used should be mentioned on the products. 

Animal fats and oils are widely used in beauty products. Shampoos and face masks, for instance, use a gel that is produced from the skin, tendons and bones of animals. Perfumes use a secretion from a gland near the genital organs of musk deer, civet cats and beavers.  Information about the contents of any product, whether it is consumed internally or externally, is important. Religious, cultural and other beliefs may forbid the use of animal ingredients. There are health concerns too. Some people are allergic to certain animal oils.
They need to know the contents of a product to be able to prevent allergic reactions. Besides, the process through which the animal ingredient is extracted often inflicts much pain on the animal. The testing of cosmetics on animals is also quite brutal. Many are uncomfortable using products that involve violence against animals.  The cosmetics industry is up in arms over the government notification. This is a multi-billion dollar industry which is clearly anxious that its market will shrink if products reveal their animal ingredients. Several companies have taken the issue to court. They have pointed out that the government did not consult them before issuing the order. The government could have consulted them. However, the industry’s argument that people do not eat their products and hence need not know whether the ingredients are of animal origin or not is specious. Concerns over contents of cosmetics are driven not just by vegetarianism but by health and other concerns as well.
The veil of secrecy shrouding the contents of cosmetic products is worrying. What are these companies anxious to hide from the consumer? Are toxic ingredients being used? The government’s decision demanding disclosure of contents is a step in the right direction. It must stand its ground before the court as a retreat will be a setback for consumer rights.

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