Congress Considers Unprecedented Power over Cosmetics

Published October 4, 2010

While congressional candidates in both parties try to appeal to voters by voicing support for smaller government, Congress is considering a bill that would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration new powers to review, regulate, and potentially ban all personal care cosmetics.

New Powers for Bureaucrats
Cosmetics are already regulated by the FDA, under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which makes it a federal crime to market unsafe products. H.R. 5786, sponsored by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), expands government power far beyond its current reach.

The bill would require more product labeling, more paperwork from small businesses, and more FDA oversight up to and including the power to ban products that have already been determined by federal authorities to be safe.

The bill would also mandate national and international personal care product manufacturers and distributors register each year with the FDA, pay a fee based on gross receipts and sales, and submit annual reports detailing each product’s chemical properties for federal agency review.

‘A Mammoth New Regulatory Scheme’
“We have serious concerns with the legislation … because it is not based on credible and established scientific principles. [It] would put an enormous if not impossible burden on the FDA and would create a mammoth new regulatory scheme for cosmetics, parts of which far exceed that of any other FDA-regulated product category, including food or drugs,” said Lisa Powers, vice president of public affairs and communications for the Personal Care Products Council.

Consumer advocates expressed similar skepticism about the bill’s purported purposes and need.

“Applying the precautionary principle to cosmetics regulation makes no sense,” said Angela Logomasini, director of risk and environmental policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “It is both unnecessary and undesirable from a public health standpoint. Despite what activists say, these products are tested and safe.”

Adding yet another layer of bureaucratic oversight, Logomasini continued, would only lead to federal standards that are arbitrarily applied and cause nonsensical bans and costly market changes.

Her colleague, CEI communications coordinator Lee Doren, said, “If your plan is to destroy the cosmetics industry as quickly as possible while relying only on anti-scientific fear-mongering, the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 is an extremely efficient means of achieving that goal.” Doren also put forth a detailed argument on the subject in a YouTube video available at

Cheryl K. Chumley ([email protected]) writes from northern Virginia.