Report: FDA needs to do more to implement new law expanding authority over cosmetic safety

WASHINGTON — Many people may think of makeup when they hear about cosmetics, but it also includes other everyday products like shampoo, toothpaste and body wash.

Some items contain preservatives that can help stop the growth of bacteria, but they may also be linked to endocrine problems.

Some products may have asbestos contamination, which could be linked to health problems like cancer.

“Many cosmetics products do contain ingredients that research has shown might have potential harmful health effects and I say might and potential because it’s actually very difficult to make some of those links,” said Karen Howard, a Director of Science and Technology Assessment for the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Scientifically, it’s very hard to prove causation when someone uses multiple products like this every day over the course of many years. It can be difficult to pinpoint which exposure they might have had that led to some of the negative health effects.”

That’s why there is government oversight to make sure the products consumers use are safe.

A law passed last year known as the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act (MoCRA) of 2022 significantly expanded the regulatory authority of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when it comes to cosmetic safety.

But a new GAO report reveals the FDA hasn’t taken all the necessary steps to fully implement the new law.

“FDA has taken important steps to implement MoCRA, such as designating its Chief Scientist to lead FDA’s implementation efforts,” the report said. “However, FDA has not fully addressed leading practices that help ensure the success of agency reforms—in this case, the organizational changes necessary to implement the law.”

That includes not yet developing a strategic workforce plan.

This is all meant to ensure the FDA is able to make sure cosmetic products are safe even with certain ingredients.

“It’s difficult to know whether the risk and benefit are worthwhile in some cases and that’s part of FDA’s job is to make those determinations,” said Howard.

In response, the FDA said it agrees with GAOs recommendations calling for the agency to complete the implementation steps.

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