The Committee would like to express its appreciation to the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) for its continued attention to the cosmetic industry’s issues, as well as its communication and engagement with the industry to work toward resolving those issues.
We also recognize the solid progress the government has made in relaxing the Safety Assessor qualification criteria, namely its proposed expansion of the scope of those qualified to serve as the signatory for product safety reports.
The Committee nevertheless urges the TFDA to take a more transparent, open-minded, and science-based approach to regulating cosmetics and adopting emerging trade models. Removing technical barriers to trade would increase Taiwan’s attractiveness to investors and businesses.
Suggestion 1: Avoid non-transparent or arbitrary review standards for proof of claims for cosmetics products and specify rules regarding consumer-generated content.
1.1 Under Article 3 of the “Regulations Governing Criteria for the Labeling, Promotion, and Advertisement of Cosmetic Products with Deception, Exaggeration, or Reference to Medical Efficacy” (the Criteria), one of the situations defined as constituting a “false or exaggerated claim” is when “the content description has no evidence, or the evidence is insufficient to support such description.” In addition, according to Appendix II of the Criteria, the data supporting the claim must be “objective and fair.”
In the Criteria, a claim that a product is anti-bacterial is one for which objective and fair supporting data is required. In 2017 the TFDA published the “Limits and Regulations on Anti-bacterial Agents Used in Cosmetics” (the Regulations), listing ingredients with anti-bacterial properties and the percentage of such ingredients allowed in cosmetics products regulated by the TFDA. We urge the TFDA to permit the claim that certain cosmetics products are anti-bacterial as long as one or more of the ingredients listed in the Regulations is included in the products’ formulas and the concentration of such ingredients meets the standards set out in the Regulations. This topic was raised in the 2021 Taiwan White Paper, but the Committee did not receive a direct response from the competent authorities.
The Criteria also require such data for claims that a product is anti-acne. However, when the industry has provided in-vitro acne bacillus test results to substantiate such claims, they were rejected by the health authorities on the grounds that the results could not prove the efficacy of the products in question on the human body. If in-vitro acne bacillus test results do not constitute “objective and fair” data to substantiate anti-acne efficacy, the Committee is unclear as to what would.
We urge the TFDA to follow international best practices in evaluating product claims for cosmetics and accept widely adopted tests as supporting data. Doing so would allow cosmetics companies to provide accurate information about their products without being subjected to the vague requirement to provide “objective and fair” data to back up such information.
1.2 Sharing information about consumer products online is a widespread trend. Consumers actively leave comments about usage experiences or suggestions to a brand on its official website, social media page, or fan page. The Committee’s member companies respect the public’s input and do not modify or delete reviews or comments left by consumers. However, local health authorities consider such comments to be advertisements by nature. When health bureau inspectors deem certain comments a violation of relevant regulations on advertising, they impose administrative penalties on the cosmetic company, even when the comments in question were not deliberately created jointly by consumers and the company. We therefore urge the competent authorities to clearly distinguish between public comments and advertising matter, while taking into consideration
that people’s freedom of speech is a fundamental constitutional right.
Suggestion 2: Relax regulations governing the production and sale of customized cosmetics.
Providing consumers with the ability to customize their cosmetics products by choosing ingredients according to skin conditions or personal preferences is a globally established trend in the cosmetics industry. It allows companies to create unique products that may be better suited to consumers’ needs than off-the-shelf products. A popular method is to have trained and certified staff blend and repackage the product on-site at retail stores.
As mentioned in the 2021 Taiwan White Paper, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides industry guidelines and a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) checklist for the inspection of customized products, which has allowed many brands to offer such products to U.S. consumers. In the EU, Cosmetics Europe (CE), France’s FEBEA, and the German Cosmetic, Toiletry, Perfumery and Detergent Association (IKW) have provided voluntary guidelines for their members to follow regarding customized cosmetics. In addition, South Korea’s new cosmetics laws allow companies to sell personalized cosmetics after obtaining a specific license, with the customization conducted by certified personnel. In Japan, personalized cosmetics can be made and sold in stores as long as the premises pass a government audit and the company has obtained a manufacturing license.
The Committee is very grateful to the TFDA for its open-mindedness in discussing this issue, which affirms the government’s efforts to harmonize Taiwan’s regulations with international trends. We look forward to continuing our discussions with the TFDA and urge it to relax relevant regulations and remove barriers to this new business model. Doing so would encourage further growth of the cosmetics industry and stimulate economic development in Taiwan.
Suggestion 3: Permit the refilling of cosmetics product containers for the sake of waste reduction and environmental protection.
As companies and governments globally implement measures to combat climate change, the Taiwan government has also demonstrated its determination to promote the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and reduce carbon emissions and waste. In 2016, the Executive Yuan’s cross-ministerial Office of Energy and Carbon Reduction was established to promote environmental protection. Similarly, cosmetics companies worldwide have also implemented specific environmental, social, and governance (ESG) measures to contribute to protection of the environment.
One such example is the collection and reuse of cosmetic containers. Reusing containers – including the refilling of cosmetics bottles – is an effective means of reducing waste and protecting the environment. Consumers bring their empty cosmetics products to the store, which refills them from a bulk-sized container. Allowing this service would assist the government in reaching its net-zero ambitions as well as reducing public waste-disposal costs.
As with customized cosmetics, refilling is allowed in many major markets, including the U.S., EU, and South Korea. In addition, the ASEAN Cosmetic Association is in the process of drafting guidelines for refilling products in-store. Among ASEAN countries, the Thailand FDA has on several occasions discussed the refilling of liquid perfumes and body and hair-cleansing cosmetics with industry representatives. Based on the resulting consensus, draft regulations on refilling cosmetics containers are expected to be announced in Thailand in the near future.
This issue was raised in the 2021 Taiwan White Paper but so far, no significant progress has been made toward developing new regulations. We urge the TFDA to support the environmentally friendly practice of refilling cosmetics product containers by announcing regulations and guidelines that draw on existing international standards.