Part II: The Perfume Industry & EU Regulations

source: girlandboything.com

source: girlandboything.com

There is a new Reuters article on the situation involving the EU regulations, but this one focuses heavily on what the response of various perfumers or perfume houses, along with measures that they’ve taken to deal with the potential oakmoss ban. In Part I of what seems likely to be an ongoing series of mine on this issue, I focused on Frederic Malle versus LVMH, Chanel, and L’Oreal, based on various reports by Reuters’ Astrid Wendlandt. This time, she has spoken to other perfumers like Parfums d’Empire‘s Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, Maurice Roucel, and Patricia de Nicolaï in a piece entitled, What’s in a scent? Perfume makers adapt to EU rules.”

However, what I found most intriguing of all in the article was Ms. Wendlandt’s subtle hint of a potential bias in the SCCS group (Scientific Committee on Consumer Safetywhose original 2012 proposals started this mad dash towards increasingly draconian EU restrictions. So I looked into the group, and Ms. Wendlandt may have a point. I’ll discuss all that, as well as provide analysis from others regarding the iffy science underlying the SCCS’ theories. There will also be a brief tangent of my own to look at the wealth of several perfume companies who would seem to have every incentive to join in a united front against the EU measures, but are doing next to nothing.

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The Perfume Industry & EU Regulations

There is a new Reuters article on what is going to happen with EU perfume regulation, and I found it interesting for reasons other than the usual repetition of how oakmoss is going to be banned. What is significant about the piece to me is what certain perfume houses said bluntly, what others did not, and the tonal shift amongst some industry leaders. So, I’m going to spend some time analyzing how various perfume brands are reacting to the EU proposals, now versus the past. In terms of actual regulatory news, the Reuters article talks a little about the small 90-day window for public consultation which just ended on May 14th, and the next steps in the legislative process. I’ll cover that, too.

BACKGROUND:

Oakmoss or tree moss.

Oakmoss or tree moss.

Let’s start with some background if you’re unfamiliar with the convoluted details of the EU situation. As noted in my prior piece on perfume regulation, a 2012 Advisory Committee had offered certain draconian suggestions to the EU regulatory body on widespread restrictions of 12 ingredients. These were mere suggestions, but, as noted in a 2013 post I wrote, it had already led the perfume industry to begin changes to formulas of existing perfumes. To bring you up to date on the current situation, and to put it in a nutshell, the EU is currently:

  1. planning on completely banning oakmoss, tree moss, and HICC, a synthetic that replicates the smell of lily of the valley (or muguet).
  2. deliberating on how much 9 other key, very essential ingredients should be restricted and to what levels they should be limited. As the new Reuters article explains, these other ingredients include citral, found in lemon and tangerine oils; coumarin, found in tropical tonka beans; and eugenol, found in rose oil.”
  3. deliberating on what sort of perfume labeling should be required.

Now, all of this is the exact same situation we faced when I wrote my earlier piece back in February of this year, but part of what the new Reuters article talks about is the public reaction to those proposals and the results of the consultation window where the EU sought opinion from those in the industry and its citizens. The article is called “Perfume industry braces for tough new EU rules” and was written by Astrid Wendlandt and Pascale Denis. It also talks about what the next steps in this process will be, but I found it interesting primarily for what I think it reveals about the various perfume companies and industry leaders, like Frederic Malle, Chanel, and LVMH.

THE PERFUME INDUSTRY RESPONSE:

Frederic Malle. Source: Paris.com

Frederic Malle. Source: Paris.com

My favorite quote from Monsieur Malle in the new article pertains to the EU’s plans to restrict citral, though to what level we do not yet know:

If we ban citral from perfumes, of which certain elements are allergens, we should ban orange juice. It is absurd. We should not ban nature, only learn how to live with it,” said Frederic Malle, who founded the French luxury perfume company Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. [Emphasis added.]

Monsieur Malle also informed the reporters that he is already reformulating his fragrances:

Frederic Malle said he was forced to reformulate about a quarter of his scents due to the upcoming EU regulations, leading to extra costs – but costs which he found difficult to quantify as they also represented time invested to rework the formulas.

“It can take more than six months to reformulate a perfume, and a minimum of some 30 tests … and this is precious time that cannot be spent on creating new perfumes. So to protect a small portion of the population, we are making the rest suffer,” he said.

Note how very candid, blunt, and frustrated his comments are, and then compare them to the very gingerly worded, rather generic e-mail statements issued by Chanel and LVMH in the article. Chanel is quoted on the issue of the oakmoss ban which is going to severely impact several of its most famous fragrances, particularly Chanel No. 5. In talking about the oakmoss ban, the article states:

Source: entertainment.desktopnexus.com

Source: entertainment.desktopnexus.com

Such mosses could be found in Chanel’s No.5 and Dior’s Miss Dior but the brands have been working on using altered versions, stripped of the molecules atranol and chloroatranol, regarded as potential allergens by the EU.

“Adapting is a challenge but it is precisely the talent of our “nose” to be able to preserve the qualities and olfactive (scent) identity of our perfumes while also taking into account new regulatory constraints,” Chanel said in an e-mailed statement.

That’s all Chanel seems to be willing to say on the record, which is consistent with prior articles where they have either refused to comment entirely, or the reporters have implied that Chanel doesn’t want to talk about what it’s doing to its perfumes in response to the EU situation.

As for the other luxury companies, the Reuters piece only had this to say:

Hermes as well as Dior and Guerlain[the latter 2] both owned by LVMH – have also been preparing themselves for the new rules by progressively changing their formulas.

The European Commission approach guarantees the security of consumers and preserves Europe’s olfactive heritage,” LVMH said in an e-mailed statement. Hermes, Dior and Guerlain declined to comment. [Emphasis to names added by me.]

Mitsouko, a LVMH fragrance from Guerlain that has already been impacted badly by EU/IFRA regulations. Photo source: Guerlain.com

Mitsouko, a LVMH fragrance from Guerlain that has already been impacted badly by EU/IFRA regulations. Photo source: Guerlain.com

LVMH’s comments demonstrate a distinct change in tone, if you ask me. Back in the earlier Reuters article that was the focus of my January 1, 2013 post on the widespread split in the industry, the journalists said this:

LVMH, which owns Dior and Guerlain, and Chanel are lobbying Brussels to protect their perfumes, many of which were created decades ago.

It is essential to preserve Europe’s olfactory cultural heritage,” LVMH told Reuters in an emailed statement.

What a difference. Before, we had an industry leader demonstrating a willingness to fight and telling journalists that it was lobbying Brussels in order “to preserve Europe’s olfactory cultural heritage” against the proposed EU regulations. Now, we now have the exact same company saying that it is the European Commission’s approach which “preserves Europe’s olfactive heritage.” There is a night and day difference between those two LVMH statements.

My guess is that companies do not want to appear to be working against regulations that have been presented as protecting consumers. You and I know that the EU regulations are based on iffy science and the mere possibility that some tiny, minute portion of the population may perhaps, one day, maybe, hypothetically get a skin rash — but the general public does not. The way all of this is being presented on the surface is that the EU is kindly and benignly working in the public good. Companies may not want to risk the negative PR from appearing to be against regulations that are ostensibly intended to protect consumers. In truth, their fears aren’t wholly illogical. It’s not impossible to imagine tabloid headlines from ragsheets like the Daily Mirror or News of the World screaming, “Greedy Chanel wants to keep its massive perfume profits from Chanel No. 5 even if it makes consumers sick!”

Chanel's jewellery window at Le Place Vendome. Photo: my own.

Chanel’s jewellery window at Le Place Vendome. Photo: my own.

I think that is the only explanation for why some brands refuse to publicly discuss the EU changes at all. Consider Chanel’s bland statement on how its noses are talented enough to compensate for the total oakmoss ban in its most famous fragrances, and then compare it with Frederic Malle’s outraged bluntness on the complete idiocy of the situation. Do you think Frederic Malle doesn’t have the most talented noses who could also deal with the oakmoss situation? He does, but he’s willing to publicly stand up for the perfume makers in this battle perhaps because his company is not a multi-national conglomerate that puts out everything from skin care to fashion and expensive diamond jewellery.

His business is limited primarily to perfume, so he is in a much more life-and-death struggle. And he’s said so, bluntly. Back in that earlier Reuters piece which I keep talking about, Malle said:

“If this law goes ahead I am finished, as my perfumes are all filled with these ingredients,” said Frederic Malle…. The impact on luxury perfume brands as a whole would, he said, be “like an atomic explosion and we would not have the means to rebuild ourselves.”

Chanel's 1932.

Chanel’s 1932.

Here, in the current 2014 Reuters article, Malle talks candidly about how he is already reformulating his fragrances. Contrast that to what Chanel and others had to say in the earlier Reuters article:

Chanel declined to comment on whether it has ever changed the formula of its world-famous perfume, as did Guerlain, Dior and luxury brand Hermes, which all make high-end perfumes using natural ingredients.

“No comment” in this context pretty much speaks volumes, if you ask me.

I’ve seen the same divide in article after article. Frederic Malle is consistently the most blunt and critical; LVMH (owner of Guerlain and Dior) is never critical but is usually quite direct about its views of the EU regulations; Chanel sometimes makes a rare, always bland statement that never attacks IFRA or the EU, and is never about anything of any significance whatsoever; and Hermès lets the other luxury manufacturers fight its battles.

L'Oreal's La Vie Est Belle, by Lancome. Source: myfdb.com

L’Oreal’s La Vie Est Belle, by Lancome. Source: myfdb.com

In the meantime, L’Oreal essentially smirks in the corner and appears not to give a damn, perhaps because a good chunk of its creations for such brands as YSL, Lancome, Viktor & Rolf, and many others are rather synthetic concoctions. The earlier 2012 Reuters article is much more tactful than I am about L’Oreal, probably because they aren’t nursing a serious grudge against the company as I most definitely am for what they’ve done to YSL perfumes. So, Reuters says only:

L’Oreal, however, already uses many synthetic ingredients in its perfumes and is thus keeping a low profile on the issue, industry representatives said.

Other companies making perfumes on an industrial scale for luxury brands, such as IFF, Givaudan and Firmenich, are less concerned about the SCCS proposal because they can rely on synthetic materials and make new perfumes using them but the restrictions, if enforced, would force them to reformulate many of their scents on a scale never seen before.

Givaudan and L’Oreal declined to comment for this report.

Pierre Sivac, President of IFRA. Source: Cosmeticsbusiness.com

Pierre Sivac, President of IFRA. Source: Cosmeticsbusiness.com

Yes, I’m quite sure that Givaudan declined to comment…. Speaking of the aroma-chemical giant, and its toady servant, IFRA, I found it interesting that the new Reuters article on the current situation did not discuss the perfume industry’s supposed representative. In fact, there was not one single mention of IFRA in the whole piece. Yet, IFRA was positively bowing at the EU’s feet back in February, rubbing their hands approvingly at the proposed restrictions. The Reuters piece from back then that I talked about in part in my previous post has IFRA’s president saying:

We broadly welcome the proposed measures,” said Pierre Sivac, president of the International Fragrance Association [IFRA], the perfume industry’s self-regulatory body…. which is financed by scent makers such as Givaudan, New York-listed International Flavors & Fragrances and Germany’s Symrise [….] [Emphasis added by me.]

THE NEXT STEPS IN THE PROCESS & LABELING:

So, what is happening now and in the upcoming months? Well, according to the new Reuters article, we should get a report in July about the results of the open discussion period and what issues were raised. The article says,

[t]he consultation triggered more than 200 responses from industry players, consumers’ associations and researchers, which the EU said was a relatively high number.

“This has stirred quite a lot of passion,” said Hudson of the European Commission.

The Berlaymont building in Brussels, headquarters of the European Commission. Photo and source: acmphoto.photoshelter.com

The European Commission’s headquarters at the Berlaymont building in Brussels. Photo and source: acmphoto.photoshelter.com

Then, in August, a proposed amendment of the 2009 Cosmetics Regulation act with the new rules is expected to be sent to individual EU member nations. In September, a final version might be sent to the overall EU Council and Parliament. At that point, there would be 3 months in which the governing body or individual members could oppose it. I assume at the end of that time, roughly in December 2014, the whole thing would come to a final vote, but I’m rather hazy on how the EU legislative rules work. The bottom line, however, seems to be that January 2015 will be the start of a different perfume landscape.

Two issues remain open for further discussion and fine-tuning before they are submitted to any legislative body for consideration. Specifically, the question of how much 9 of the 12 targeted ingredients (like the citral mentioned above) should be restricted, and then the exact nature of labeling that will be mandated. With regard to the latter, the new Reuters article states:

The regulations will also require perfume makers to inform consumers about potential allergens contained in their products but it has not yet decided how this will work in practice and how many of them should be labelled.

It has raised the number of ingredients that must be labelled from 26 to more than 80 and is looking at ways to allow perfume makers to provide information about them on the Internet or through smartphone scans to avoid having to cram them on the package.

80 seems like a lot, but it’s a little less than the 100 which the Advisory Committee initially suggested a long time ago. What always amuses me about the labeling situation is what happened in 2005 when consumer groups forced an EU amendment requiring perfume companies to list 26 potentially allergenic ingredients on their bottles. According to the old Reuters piece, the perfume companies did so… in Latin!

Part of the problem for perfume companies when it comes to label lists seems to be that they don’t have any intellectual property protection. As the old Reuters piece explains:

Most perfume brands are reluctant to label their products. Unlike artists and writers, perfume creators have no intellectual property rights to the fragrances they compose for big brands, and so perfume brands fight hard to keep their formulas hidden.

Of course, it’s always possible to ascertain the ingredients in a particular fragrance by putting it through highly specialised machines that will detect not only the various elements, but the proportions thereof. That’s how cheap copies and fakes are already made. Yet, obviously, things become much easier if the full list is provided by the company itself under mandate of law. The proportions may not be there, but everything else would be.

If perfume companies are going to be forced to label their products down to the smallest minutiae, it seems only fair that parallel legislation be pushed through to confer intellectual property protection at the same time. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard of any such proposals. If any of you have, I’d love to hear about it.

In the midst of all this, perfume lovers have little choice but to wait and see how events transpire. This brings me to the Parfumo Petition which I told you about some weeks ago. It was delivered to Brussels on May 14th with 2,500 signatures. A press release statement recently sent to me by Angelika Foerster of Parfumo reads:

From the standpoint of the individuals fighting on behalf of the art of perfumery, 2,500 signatures cannot be overlooked in Brussels or dismissed as “insignificant”. Moreover, the campaign is ongoing and additional signatures will be collected after the petition is submitted. “The issue will not go unnoticed in EU everyday routine”, Foerster foresees. “We’ll continue to buttress our point of view with more and more signatures. The only thing that will stop us is if the commission acknowledges our position and thus revises the bill in an acceptable way.” Accordingly, signatures will continue to be collected at http://www.parfumo.de/petition – in favour of perfume and against overregulation.

In short, the petition is ongoing, so if you haven’t done so already, please sign it and spread the word. It doesn’t matter if you’re not an EU resident. “Signatures by non-EU citizens are welcome as per the Commission’s request for input from ‘any interested parties’.”

In the meantime, Hermes, Dior, Guerlain, Malle, and many others are already changing their perfumes. Over in the Middle East, it seems that IFRA/EU-like regulations are going to be adopted in places like the United Arab Emirates, with ripple effects already impacting Amouage’s production of its attars.

By one estimate, over 9,000 perfume formulas are going to be changed when this is all over, if they haven’t been already. In my opinion, that is probably a very conservative number, in part because it comes from the agenda-driven IFRA group. Given that there are well over 1,000 new fragrances which hit the market each year and the significant role of the 9 key ingredients which are being targeted for reduction, I suspect that overall figure may be higher. In short, 2015 may herald a new year in more ways than one.

News: All Production of Amouage Attars Now Ceased Entirely?

There are further developments in the situation involving the Amouage attars. I’ve just been informed that the Amouage factory in Oman has ceased all production of the attars entirely.

Source: patrickbaty.co.uk

Source: patrickbaty.co.uk

As some of you who kept up with the comments in my earlier post on this matter may know, it appears likely that the IFRA/EU perfume regulations are going to be adopted in some form in the United Arab Emirates. To be clear, these are Oman’s neighboring states, and their regulations to do not apply to Amouage’s home nation of Oman.

A reader called Taleb wrote that he’d read in his local (presumably Emirati) papers:

that the emirates standards and metrology authorization (ESMA) is going to enforce strict regulations on standardizing the perfume industry in the U.A.E. starting from July 2014. Of course part of the standardization is to comply with IFRA regulations.

Another reader, Dubaiscents, provided a link to a brief article in English on the subject of perfume conformity in the UAE and the plans of the Emirates Standards agency called ESMA. It was a confusing article that focused primarily on the contraband and fraud aspects of perfume regulation, but it mentioned one thing that caught my eye. It mentioned that ESMA had something called The Emirates Conformity Assessment Scheme (ECAS).

I did some digging and it appears that the ECAS is where all the trouble lies. According to the ECAS mission statement:

per the Ministerial Decision No. 114/2 of 2004, ESMA is mandated to adopt International Standards, other Regional and National Standards relevant to the environmental conditions in the UAE in the absence of a UAE or Gulf Standards.

As part of ESMA’s commitment to support the effective implementation of the UAE Standards, the Conformity Assessment Department is implementing a Product Certification Program called the Emirates Conformity Assessment Scheme (ECAS) wherein products that affects the public life, health and safety, products that have an impact with the environment and the UAE economy shall fall under this Scheme. Moreover, ECAS shall identify locally manufactured product to be included in this Scheme to ensure the quality of these products so that these products can be competitive in the global market[Emphasis in bolding added by me.]

In a nutshell, the UAE plans on regulating all products — including those that have an impact on the public health — in order to be competitive in the global marketplace, and they plan to achieve this goal via the adoption of international standards.

Perfume is an item that international or foreign law (namely, the EU’s law) has deemed to have an impact on public health and safety. As a result, the UAE is likely to classify it in the same way, and to adopt the international standards that other countries have chosen to regulate that product. Ergo, IFRA/EU laws. Whether they will be adopted whole-sale or in piecemeal fashion that is tailored to the particular needs of the Emirates’ market and culture remains to be seen. However, it’s pretty clear that some form of international perfume regulation is coming to the Emirate Gulf States in three months time.

Attar distillation. Source: Broken Earth Naturals.

Attar distillation. Source: Broken Earth Naturals.

It seemed that Amouage preferred to move all its attars to its home country of Oman rather than run the risk of potentially violating future UAE ingredient levels, or diluting its attars. That was laudable and understandable, though also somewhat frustrating in light of early reports that Amouage was restricting even its Oman sales to long-time, established, local customers.

This latest news, however, feels quite grim. It comes to me from a good friend who is closely involved with the Amouage attars, and whose reliable, local source actually visited the Amouage factory in Muscat, Oman. There, he was told directly that they have completely ceased production of any kind. All that is left is remaining stock, which is virtually nothing. (To be precise, he was told a mere 2 bottles of Homage were available, though he thinks that there may be a few more bottles in general, based upon what he personally observed. All of them, however, would be limited for sale to very established Omani customers. And, after that, nothing.)

Source: straightrazorplace.com

Source: straightrazorplace.com

It’s mystifying to me. Oman is a sovereign nation outside of the Emirates, and what it does at home under its own laws is completely separate from whatever its neighbors in the Gulf may choose to do. Oman has no laws on perfume regulation that I know of, and I’ve heard nothing to indicate that they are planning on following in their neighbor’s footsteps. So, why halt factory production of something that is already restricted to its own people and outside the jurisdiction of third-party regulation? My feeble hope is that this is a temporary issue while Amouage re-groups and decides what its future course of action may be.

However, if, by some miserable chance, this turns out to be a final decision, then I will be irate beyond belief. Not because of the attars themselves, but because of what all this symbolizes: that the EU’s insane neuroses have spread like an airborne Ebola virus to contaminate a whole other continent, one whose tradition of perfumery predates anything in Europe by at least a thousand years. There seems to be no escape from the bloody, sodding EU, their Quisling bedmate, IFRA, and their infection of the perfume industry. It’s all turning into some strange, twisted perfume version of Lebensraum: territorial expansion by dominion and the imposing of “superior” law to ensure the health of a certain group of people. That may be an unfair comparison, I grant you, especially given the loaded connotations of that term, but I’m not feeling particularly charitable or objective at this moment. I simply cannot believe that IFRA and the EU are impacting Middle Eastern perfumery.

The bastards.

[UPDATE: It turns out that the issue is one of insurance stemming from the new UAE law and its indirect incorporation of EU standards. At least, insurance is the explanation provided by Amouage’s Christopher Chong. You can read the details in my review for Homage attar.]

The EU Proposes to Act on Perfume

Well, it’s slowly happening. The EU finally seems poised to act, according to a new report by Reuters. The article is entitled “EU Commission proposes tighter regulation of perfume ingredients” and was written by Astrid Wendlandt and Pascale Denis. To be clear, nothing in the article involves anything new. All that is happening now are the first, slow, official steps on events set into motion back in 2012.

In a nutshell, the situation is analogous to a Senate Sub-Committee advisory report going to the Senate who took their time to study it and, finally, after a while, decided it may be time to act on it with actual legislation. Those future legislative enactments have not been passed into law — yet — but things are much closer to that point than they were before. So many people blame IFRA, but the real source of perfume regulation is the EU. Yes, IFRA began all this years and years ago with minor restrictions, but none of them were actual law or quite as wide-sweeping in nature. It has taken the EU to act and make them legal mandates, binding on all who want to sell within their territory.

Dried oakmoss or tree moss.

Dried oakmoss or tree moss.

A few years ago, the EU asked its advisory, scientific body to look into things further. It commissioned the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) to come up with a report on allergens from perfumery, and that report was published in July 2012. You can read more about the group’s findings and recommendations in my post, 2013, the EU, Reformulations & Perfume Makers’ Secrets. As the new Reuters article summarizes, the SCCS advisory committee made several findings and suggested proposals:

The report called for drastically reducing the use of many natural ingredients found in perfumes, on the basis that 1 to 3 percent of the EU population may be allergic or may become allergic to them.

The recommendations of the report, if adopted by the Commission, threaten to seriously damage the fragrance industry.

The report recommended restricting the concentration of 12 substances – including citral, found in lemon and tangerine oils; coumarin, found in tropical tonka beans; and eugenol, found in rose oil – to 0.01 percent of the finished product.

It also proposed an outright ban on tree moss and oak moss, which provides distinctive woody base notes in Chanel’s No.5 and Dior’s Miss Dior.

Muguet, or Lily of the Valley.

Muguet, or Lily of the Valley.

So, what is happening now? Well, the EU Commission is taking its first steps in acting on those suggestions. In essence, “the executive body” (as the Reuters article calls it) is giving its judicial response on the consultants’ 2012 findings. They are planning to follow the 2012 suggestions by proposing specific, upcoming action in a few areas:

  1. a ban of atranaol and chloroatranol, molecules found in oak moss and tree moss, two of the most commonly used raw materials because of their rich, earthy aroma and ability to ‘fix’ a perfume to make it last longer.
  2. ban HICC, a synthetic molecule which replicates the lily of the valley aroma and which has also been widely used by perfume makers.
  3. It is also proposing to significantly lengthen the list of molecules and ingredients perfume makers have to label on the packaging of their products to warn potentially sensitive users.

In short, the EU Commission appears to have flat-out accepted the proposed SCCS suggestion of banning oakmoss, but it is being more cautious with regard to its other suggestion of severely restricting 12 (or more) ingredients. What it is doing instead is what all legislative bodies do when confronted with more inclusive, drastic action: it is going to delay things further by asking for additional reports and investigation. The EU executive Commission has demanded

further research to determine what level of concentration should be used for those 12 ingredients and for another eight. These ingredients represent the spine of about 90 percent of fine fragrances, according to experts.

One reason for the hesitation to take immediate action is the wide-ranging impact that the SCCS’s recommendation would have. IFRA has stated that toying with those 12 ingredients would result in the formulas for over 9,000 perfumes being changed.

Stephen Weller, IFRA photo, via The Scented Salamander.

Stephen Weller, IFRA photo, via The Scented Salamander.

Speaking of IFRA, in the past, the organisation has pretended that it is the champion of perfumers, and it is only thanks to their actions that oakmoss has not been banned completely. In my piece on Viktoria Minya, the world of a “nose,” and what it’s like to be a perfumer in today’s current EU/IFRA regulated world, I discussed claims made by Stephen Weller, IFRA’s Director of Communications. According to the European blog, The Scented Salamander, Mr. Weller has given a few interviews in France defending his organisation as the supposed savior of certain key ingredients. The Scented Salamander states that Mr. Weller:

makes the particularly salient point in this exchange that without IFRA, a number of perfumery ingredients would have altogether disappeared from the palette of the perfumer as they have come under attack from the European Union and before that pressure groups voicing their concerns…

Weller explains in this new interview with Premium Beauty News how his organism permits a more nuanced approach to the dermatological and allergic risks presented by aromatic materials.

Mr. Weller would have you believe that IFRA is firmly on the perfumers’ side, acting as the sole barrier between the lobbyists who he argues are really at fault, and the total eradication of oakmoss in perfumery. I give my responses to that utterly ridiculous contention in the Viktoria Minya piece, but if anything should show IFRA’s true nature, it’s their reaction to these new 2014 EU developments.

Pierre Sivac, President of IFRA. Source: Cosmeticsbusiness.com

Pierre Sivac, President of IFRA. Source: Cosmeticsbusiness.com

In my favorite part of the recent Reuters article quoted up above, the writers give a very astute, subtle dig at IFRA by first providing their enthusiastic response to the EU executive body, and then, in the next paragraph, explaining who really backs IFRA. Take a look at their exact phrasing:

“We broadly welcome the proposed measures,” said Pierre Sivac, president if the International Fragrance Association, the perfume industry’s self-regulatory body.

Since its creation in 1973, IFRA, which is financed by scent makers such as Givaudan, New York-listed International Flavors & Fragrances and Germany’s Symrise, has restricted natural ingredients for a range of health reasons, from worries about allergies to cancer concerns. [Emphasis added by me.]

Yes, I’m quite sure that Givaudan would welcome the banning of certain natural ingredients and the severe restrictions of 12 others which form the body of 90% of perfumes. I’m quite sure they would….

[UPDATE 2/21/14 — I would like to draw your attention to something that is critical in all this, which is the scientific basis for the regulations in the first place. I’m wholly unable to speak to this with any clear knowledge, but Mark Behnke is most certainly qualified, thanks to an advanced degree in chemistry. He is the former Managing Editor of CaFleureBon who now has his own new site called Colognoisseur, which is where he recently posted an editorial on this issue. There, he writes:

The data used to determine the allergen potential of these molecules is scientifically and statistically unsound. […] The studies these bans and restrictions have been based on were performed one time at one concentration on 25 patients with no controls, positive or negative! This is what makes me shake my head as this is not good scientific practice and the conclusions made are very preliminary and possibly incorrect.

An even bigger flaw is the idea that it’s really only 23 molecules, so what? If these single molecules are restricted and banned it will have a ripple effect throughout many more raw materials. A natural oil is not a single molecule it is a combination of as many as hundreds of individual molecules. Any one of which could be identified as one of the “bad 23” which would then make that natural oil unusable as well. […]

I urge you to read his piece in full.

On the medical front, there is also the information provided in the comments from “Colin,” one of my readers who I believe is a doctor. He talks about the unsoundness of the conclusions in terms of actual medical impact of these allergens, writing

Most people who may be allergic to perfumes or specific scent chemicals have a skin reaction which is not dangerous or life-threatening in any way. A brief review of medical literature reveals only two, yes that is TWO, reported cases of anaphylaxis, which is the severe, life-threatening kind of allergic reaction. One occurred in a health care worker when a patient sprayed her directly in the face with 3 sprays of perfume (I’m completely serious, look it up–Lessenger JE. Occupational acute anaphylactic reaction to assault by perfume spray in the face. J Am Board Fam Pract. 2001;14:137-40). The other occurred when a mother sprayed her 2-month infant in the face with cologne. Neither of these would be considered by anyone to be a customary use of fragrance. Incidentally, in the case of the infant, the cologne contained menthol which was the ingredient the authors suspected to have been the main factor in triggering this response. Is menthol even on the list of ingredients of concern? Should any chemical be regulated if, in the recorded history of humanity, there have been but 2 cases recorded of any anaphylactic reaction and in both cases the perfume was being misused? 3 percent of a population is not a trivial number and would be potentially worthy of public health initiatives if that population were at risk. 2 cases out of the billions and billions of people in the world? Seriously? What a ridiculous waste of time and effort. This is why no reputable major health organizations are militating for any of these regulations. Banning a chemical because some people in the vicinity might get a migraine or the person applying it might get a rash makes little sense.

In short, on both the scientific and medical fronts, the empirical reasons for these regulations are faulty to begin with, never mind where the whole thing may go once the EU actually passes the complete 2014 laws.]

There is a charade playing out in all this, a charade in which we — perfume lovers — are the only losers. Only 1% to 3% of the entire EU suffers from perfume allergies, most of which are quite minor in nature. The European Commission claims that it truly cares about that tiny fraction of its citizenry, but it also firmly insists that it wants to avoid hurting the perfume industry.

“We have to find a way of ensuring security of consumers but also avoid causing damage to the industry,” said a spokesman for Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for Consumer Safety. [Emphasis added by me.]

Avoiding damage to the industry? Forgive me while I snort. In Grasse, the true home of perfumery with its vast fields of natural resources, the producers are so desperate over the SCCS proposal and the effect of any action by the EU that they turned for help to UNESCO. Yes, EU business concerns are turning to help to the bloody UN and to its UNESCO branch, a group better known for assisting Third World countries in dealing with poverty (!!!) or protecting historical treasures.

Source: Palmbeachdailynews.com

Source: Palmbeachdailynews.com

You think I’m joking, or that is hyperbole? Consider an article in Euronews from June 2013 discussing the panic amongst the producers of the natural ingredients of perfumery:

There are 2,500 lavender producers in France, covering 20,000 hectars. Grasse is considered by many to be the “capital of perfumes”. It is close to the lavender flower growing regions and home to Robertet, a world leader in natural fragrance production and perfume design. Their 22 branches worldwide turnover 400 million euros a year.

Robertet workers were shocked at the SCCS report with its long list of allergenic substances to declare, limit or ban. To adapt, the French perfume industry would need to pay up to 100 million euros, according to one of the directors. The cost to Robertet would be approximately five million euros.

Francis Thibaudeau, Deputy Manager Fragrance Division, Robertet told euronews: “Allergenic substances are part of perfume products. All the major perfumes would disappear if the SCCS proposals are implemented. Entire branches of perfume-making would be doomed. It would be the death of the industry… we could no longer use jasmine, ylang ylang sandalwood, or bergamotte. Those ingredients and essential natural products would no longer be used…”   […][¶] 

Meanwhile the tiny village of Montségur-sur-Lauzon is at the very heart of French lavender flower production. The summer air smells different. Fragrant. Here, Kriss, a young distillery manager, and a tractor driver nicknamed Mirabelle share the same fears: the thunderstorm forecast for later today, and the storm brewing over the European Commission’s apparent attempt to limit the use of coumarine, an allergenic substance naturally present in lavender flowers…

Kriss told euronews: “This European law on allergenic substances under discussion would be a catastrophe for all professions dealing with natural raw materials. Such a law would limit the use of those substances on a very low level. 90 percent of existing natural raw materials from plants could not be used any longer. The perfumers would have to change all their formulas…it would be like the debate to ban peanuts in Europe all over again. It’s just stupid.”

Meanwhile, the city of Grasse wants UNESCO to designate its local perfume tradition as World Heritage status. Lavender producers have the same idea: UNESCO should protect them against the ‘bad boys’ of Brussels.  [Emphasis added by me.]

Yes, an entire city in the European Union is turning to a UN charitable organisation for help. I think that rather destroys the EU’s pretense of caring so much about the business industry.

Source: Brandsoftheworld.com

Source: Brandsoftheworld.com

That said, if there is a business that the EU wants to help, I’m not sure who it is. It’s too easy to claim that they are in the pocket of Big Business, but such conspiracy theories don’t hold up to a closer examination of the facts. LVMH is practically losing its mind over all this, and it’s certainly bigger, more powerful, and wealthier than either IFF or Symrise, two of the main manufacturers of aromachemicals and fragrance ingredients. The multi-billion dollar, privately owned Chanel corporation also has its panties in a twist, though as my earlier piece on the EU makes clear, L’Oreal (whose fragrances contain a lot of cheap crap) is quietly saying nothing. (No, L’Oreal, I will never, ever forgive you for what you’ve done to YSL fragrances.) Neither is Coty, apparently. (As a side note, IFRA President, Pierre Sivac, was formerly a powerful Coty executive. He also worked at Unilever, another big, beauty industry player that is not exactly known for its prestige fragrances.)

In my earlier piece on the EU, I quoted a discussion on the big split in the perfumery industry:

The proposals have also revealed schisms in the perfume industry – a lack of unity that makes it harder to lobby with one voice.

Brand owners such as Chanel and LVMH and scent-makers such as Coty, L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble, Givaudan and Symrise all have different goals.

LVMH, which owns Dior and Guerlain, and Chanel are lobbying Brussels to protect their perfumes, many of which were created decades ago.

“It is essential to preserve Europe’s olfactory cultural heritage,” LVMH told Reuters in an emailed statement.

So, again, if one has conspiracy theories about the EU being in the pocket of Big Business, then who is the business group who would actually be helped? Not the Europeans themselves, perhaps. In the opinion of one of the people quoted in the June 2013 Euronews article on Grasse, EU restrictions “would open up the doors of the European market for Indians and Chinese who would profit from European over-regulation and conquer our market shares…”  I’m not quite sure how that would happen in Europe, given that anyone buying from the alleged Indian and Chinese profiteers would still have to abide by EU perfume laws, but it would certainly benefit producers and perfume manufacturers in the growing markets outside of Europe.

All these contradictions and competing interests really makes one wonder, yet again, why is all this happening? I honestly don’t know. To me, it simply isn’t logical. As I wrote in the Viktoria Minya piece, I don’t see the EU or manufacturing associations putting restrictions on factories who produce food items or on chefs in restaurants simply because there are some pressure groups who complain about nut allergies. Some of the early EU advisory suggestions (like the ludicrous idea of possibly banning Chanel No. 5 that I’ve talked about in another IFRA/EU post) are akin to shutting down the Eiffel Tower simply because 1%-3% of the EU’s 503.5 million population may have vertigo. (It’s been estimated that “1 to 3 percent of the EU population… are allergic or potentially allergic to natural ingredients contained in fine perfumes, according to a report published in July by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), an advisory body for the European Commission.” [Emphasis added.])

If the real concern is truly allergic reactions and not Big Business, then why aren’t warning labels enough? They put such warnings on cigarettes, and on pre-packaged food items that may have been prepared in a factory that had some nuts in it. Are perfumes actually more dangerous to people’s health than cigarettes??! Also, why are perfumes to be regulated with such ingredients as the amount of lavender or citrus oils, but massage oils are left alone? Presumably, that minuscule percentage of EU citizens who have allergic reactions — or just the mere potential thereof — might possibly decide to have a massage one day. Why are those oils fine, but the ones in perfumery — which allergic people can simply avoid using — subject to increasingly Orwellian, draconian measures?

Again, I have to emphasize that the new Reuters article is merely outlining the EU executive body’s first official, judicial response to earlier proposals. It is just like the Senate finally acting on a sub-committee advisory report from a few years before. With the exception of the Lily of the Valley proposal which I hadn’t heard of before or, more likely, had merely forgotten about, all of this has been on the table since 2012. However, now, the EU is finally taking the first slow steps to actually do something about it.

It is only a matter of time. Or perhaps it has already started. As the article notes, “industry sources say major perfume makers have already started modifying their formulas accordingly.”