SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (REUTERS) - China is considering a rule change that would allow the sale of some cosmetics without requiring them to be tested on animals, opening up a potential route into the Chinese market for international firms opposed to the practice.
Under the potential changes, "non-specialised cosmetics" manufactured in China - such as shampoos, soaps, nail products and some skin products - could be sold from June 2014 without undergoing animal testing, according to the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA).
This may enable firms which do not allow the practice, such as British cosmetics retailer The Body Shop, wholly-owned by L'Oreal SA, to enter the country's 134 billion yuan (S$27.5 billion) cosmetics market.
"Under the proposal, non-specialised cosmetics produced in China could avoid toxicological testing when going through risk and safety checks. This would include animal testing," the CFDA said in comments emailed to Reuters on Wednesday. They clarified a statement published on its website last week when it sought public opinion on the proposed changes.
Imported cosmetics of all types and "specialised cosmetics"made in China will not be not covered by the proposed change, the CDFA said. Specialised cosmetics include sun cream, deodorants, skin bleaching products, hair dyes and hair growth and hair removal products, according to Chinese regulations.
"The Body Shop welcomes the signals that the Chinese authorities are adopting a new approach to cosmetic testing,"spokesman Louise Terry said in emailed comments from London.
"We have campaigned against animal testing for over 20 years and we look forward to selling our products in China one day." Animal testing is legal in more than 80 per cent of the world, including the United States. But China is the only country that has laws requiring cosmetic products be tested on animals before they come to market, according to animal protection campaigner Cruelty Free International.
Regulations require all cosmetics to go through a lengthy approval process that includes animal testing, reducing the variety of products available for sale.
Animal rights groups welcomed the proposed changes, but said that this would not mark the end of animal testing in China as ingredients used for cosmetics may still have to go through an approval process involving animal tests.
"The fact they are looking at these changes and have made this proposal is really to be welcomed. It's a significant development," Ms Emily McIvor, senior policy adviser to Humane Society International, said by telephone from Britain.
The group is meeting the CFDA this week to urge Beijing to also include imported and specialised cosmetics.