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Singapore implements the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive

The application of the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD), by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), comes into fore in Singapore from 1 January 2008. As of the New Year, stiffer penalties will be leveled out to cosmetic companies selling products that contain banned chemicals and preservatives. Fines to be issued have gone up tenfold from $10,000 (US $7,000) to $100,000 (US $70,000) and the maximum jail sentence is three years instead of the previous two.

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) announced that regulation of cosmetics would now be in line with the Asean Cosmetic Directive (ACD) signed in 2003, which is a treaty that streamlines the way cosmetics are sold in the region. Since 1998, ASEAN cosmetic regulators and cosmetic industry have been working through the Cosmetic Product Working Group (CPWG) of the ASEAN Consultative Committee for Standards and Quality (ACCSQ) to address issues associated with barriers for this sector. As a result of this cooperation, the Agreement on the ASEAN Harmonized Cosmetic Regulatory Scheme was signed by ASEAN Ministers during the 35th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting on 2 September 2003. This Agreement covers: (i) the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement of Product Registration Approvals for Cosmetic; and (ii) the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.

This Directive, which aligns itself very closely with a similar European Union Cosmetic Directive, was acceded to by all ASEAN Member Countries. The objectives of the ACD are to increase co-operation between regional members for the safety and quality of cosmetics products marketed in the ASEAN region as well as eliminating restrictions to the trade of cosmetics products through the standardization of technical requirements. In so doing, the hope is that this move will help to attract more global players, who will eventually be able to tap into a large market that is easily accessible in terms of mass marketed product lines. All ASEAN Member countries are obliged to implement the ACD by 1 January 2008.

Cosmetic products that were regulated under the Medicines Act will now be regulated under the Health Products Act and these include: toothpastes, soaps, shampoos, make-up and perfumes. There will now be an expanded list of prohibited substances and a specific permitted list of additives, for example – preservatives, colorants and UV filters. Consumers will witness better labeling such as manufacture dates and expiry, as well as handling precautions. Products such as hair-straighteners for instance will carry a warning that they be kept away from children. Also previously, cosmetics were divided into two categories – high- risk and low-risk products. High risk products, such as ones used around the eyes and face, had to be registered whereas low-risk products needed no registration. Now the HSA must be notified of products being sold by all companies regardless of their categories.

As of 1 January 2008, all new products must be incompliance with the ACD requirements and notify HSA prior to sale. Further still, all existing products currently being sold in the local market are expected to notify HSA within a given 12 months and to be fully compliant with the requirements by 1 January 2011. This notification system, as explained by the HSA CEO, Dr. John Lim, will assist in the building of a database of about 100,000 cosmetic products sold in Singapore. This will encourage any further action to be taken when needed because all of the information held on what is being sold in Singapore is substantive. Furthermore, the presence of a regional ASEAN Post-Marketing Alert System (PMAS), as well as global signals from counterpart regulators will ensure that the safety monitoring and information on unsafe products are always up to date.

These measures are in the consumers’ interests and the cosmetic industry has been responding well to the demands laid down to enable its successful implementation. Like economic expansion in the region, the cosmetics industry has also developed rapidly, but ASEAN believes that the implementation of a harmonization cosmetics directive could help to further boost growth.