New guidelines to curb bacterial action

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Hong kong, Cosmetics

A new set of global guidelines has been developed for the
identification of a hazardous microorganism as the discovery of
high levels of bacteria in mascara in Hong Kong highlights the
problem of inadequate safety procedures.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published the set of guidelines, which is one of seven standards for the detection and identification of microorganisms that the non-governmental body has brought out. A total of 24 participating countries were involved in the production of the guidelines, which aim to ensure that Candida albicans​, which can cause skin and mucous membrane infections, stays out of cosmetic products. The publication of the standard came as the Consumer Council in Hong Kong tested 40 mascara products and found two containing 150 times the permitted amount of bacteria. The figures, which were based on hygiene standards in mainland China, illustrate the dangers of poor production procedures. "Excessive microbial content in cosmetics can be attributable to poor hygiene during the production process, damage in package, insufficient or failure of preservatives in the products,"​ said the Consumer Council. The technical committee for cosmetics at the ISO develops standards to help prevent beauty products like the bacteria infested Mascara found in Hong Kong never reach the marketplace. "The presence of microorganisms in cosmetics may cause chemical changes and spoilage of the product or may cause an infection hazardous to the consumer,"​ said Mojedh Rowshan Tabari, who led the team that developed the latest standard. A further problem highlighted by the Hong Kong case is lack of regulation. There is no labelling legislation in the province to ensure that cosmetic labels have an expiry date, according The Standard. Mascara goes off after only four months, according to the Consumer magazine, making the absence of expiry dates particularly worrying. Using old mascara can increase the risk of developing eye infection or inflammation. The current crisis over Chinese exports that has touched the cosmetics industry, underlined by the tainted toothpaste scares of recent months, brings to light the problem of insufficient regulation in a global economy. Consumers in countries with highly developed regulatory frameworks are finding it harder to trust in the safety of their cosmetics, when so many are sourced from countries without the same safety standards. As many as 55 per cent of US consumers are not confident in personal care products manufactured in developing countries like China and India, according to a recent Harris Interactive survey. In order to reassure US consumers, the Chinese government has recently announced that it will send delegates to China later this month and in September to meet with the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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