Over the last two years, the F&F industry has been closely following the evolution of the EU Green Deal as well as the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Chemical Substances and Mixtures revision (CLP Regulation). In December 2023, a provisional agreement was reached by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU on the revision of the CLP Regulation.
Perfumer & Flavorist+ connected with Catherine Crowley, IFEAT Executive Committee chair in early January to discuss how current and evolving legislation can influence fragrance ingredient regulations.
At the end of 2023, the fragrance industry was anxiously waiting for the revisions of the CLP Regulation. Can you share a brief synopsis of the revision announcement and how it impacts the fragrance industry?
Catherine Crowley [CC]: Thanks to more than two years of constructive dialogue between our industry sector, including IFEAT and EFEO, and the EU institutions, the provisional agreement is a significant improvement from the initial proposal. Most importantly, a derogation from the mixture rule has been granted for natural essential oils and related products under the revision of the CLP Regulation. This agreement brings much-needed business certainty to our industries, ensuring the continued safe use of essential oils that are widely used by the fragrance sector. This outcome protects not only micro, small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) and the related local rural economies in many parts of Europe, but it also ensures that other downstream users and players in the fragrance value chain can continue operating as usual.
With 2024 being an election year for the EU Parliament (EP), how does this affect the fragrance industry on the regulatory front?
CC: The elections will take place between June 6-9, 2024. This means that between campaigning and finalizing ongoing dossiers before the last voting session of the Parliament in April, the attention span for new regulatory initiatives is limited. The European Commission has already announced that the revision of REACH will be dealt with in the next Parliament, but it will still present its proposal for the revision of the Cosmetic Product Regulation in February. While the current Parliament is unlikely to commence working on this file due to the already very tight agenda to wrap up ongoing work, it gives our sector time to analyze and evaluate the impact of the proposal and enter into conversation with the Commission and Member States. In addition, we need to keep in mind that the derogation for truly natural essential oils and related products under the CLP revision will be the subject of a European Commission scientific report to be published within five years after the adoption and an amendment could be proposed if necessary. That means our priority for 2024 will be to continue collecting scientific evidence, complemented by further independent studies, demonstrating that the derogation is justified.
What are some of the challenges the fragrance industry faces in maintaining an open dialogue with EU institutions?
CC: 2024 will be a year of transition and there will be many new faces in the European Parliament as well as a reset of the political agenda. In the next weeks and months, we can expect Parliament to be busy with finalising ongoing dossiers and with campaigning, while the Commission services are preparing for the next term as well. It will be difficult to attract policymakers' attention unless we ensure our issues resonate with them. Throughout the year, we will continue to engage with the Member States and give input to the European Commission on the revision of the Cosmetic Products Regulation as well as the EC’s scientific report on the derogation of essential oils. Once the dust has settled after the elections, the new grouping of policymakers in the European Parliament is also an opportunity for us to gain new supporters for our sector. Our concerns are deeply rooted in the communities and constituencies of many MEPs, this aspect greatly assists our advocacy efforts as an industry.
The open letter from IFEAT and EFEO mentions a European Commission (EC) scientific report, could you share what that report will include and its importance?
CC: Part of the political agreement underpinning the preliminary text for the CLP revision is that the derogation from the mixture rule for essential oils and related products will be the subject of a European Commission scientific report. This is not out of the ordinary: the European Commission will most likely draw up the scope of this report and mandate ECHA (the European Chemicals Agency) to conduct studies, collect evidence and hold stakeholder consultations before sharing their assessment with the Commission. The Commission will aim to publish the report within five years after the adoption. Depending on the findings, the Commission could decide to propose an amendment to the current derogation.
Considering this process, it highlights how crucial it is that we continue our dialogue with EU institutions, collecting more scientific evidence and facilitating further independent studies. These combined efforts are what is required to ensure it is demonstrated that the derogation is justified.
What do the next few years entail for the fragrance industry on the regulatory front? (ie EU Green Deal?)
CC: Our priority in 2023 was to ensure a positive outcome for the essential oils industry in the CLP regulation, which was successfully achieved, but our work is still ongoing. We will be looking at several EU proposals coming through this year that may affect the fragrance industry. The upcoming revisions of REACH and the Cosmetic Products Regulation are two of these. The trend under the current Commission was a precautionary approach to chemical regulation, moving away from a risk-based to a hazard-based approach. Clearly, the objectives of protecting human health and safeguarding the environment are ones we all aspire to, but some of the past proposals overlooked the unintended consequences of the wording of the language, which could have posed serious challenges to essential oils falling under hazard classifications, for example. We expect the next Commission to continue implementing the European Green Deal, but we see our increased dialogue resulting in a much more positive and pragmatic process along the way. We continue to use these key opportunities to engage with decision-makers, explain our concerns and our position, and present ourselves to policymakers as partners in solving the most pressing challenges we are all facing as a human community. As an industry, we can be a force for good to uphold the highest standards to protect human health and the environment, while avoiding unnecessary restrictions and administrative burdens on our sector.