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ARE YOUR COSMETICS VEG OR NON-VEG?

May 22, 2020

By Reetika Wadhwa and Isha Tiwari

Since time immemorial, people have emphasized on their looks and beauty. Several beauty products have been invented and used to elevate the personality of an individual. Mythological beliefs indicate that even ancient kings and queens such as the Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt Queen Cleopatra had a great fascination towards beautifying herself by using products such as eyeshadows, etc. With plethora of products having varied properties mushrooming in the market, the consumers have access to different means to contribute to their appearance and in the manner they deem fit. However, diversity cannot only be observed in the product range, but also in India’s culture, with its spiritualism, head-strong beliefs and community preferences, hence, always keeping the Indian government on its toes.

Cosmetics: Legal framework in India

The Indian cosmetics industry is governed by multiple legislations and their correlating rules. The commercialization of cosmetics is regulated under the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 (hereinafter referred to as the “Cosmetics Act”), in consultation with the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), to ensure that the products being sold comply to safe manufacturing practices and are of good quality.

In addition to the above, it is mandatory for the products being sold in the market to adhere to the appropriate packaging and labelling requirements, describing vital information pertaining to the constituents as well as origin and manufacturers under the provisions of the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 and the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 (hereinafter referred to as the “Legal metrology law”).

Definition of Cosmetics

Section 3(aaa) of the Cosmetics Act defines ‘cosmetic’ as an article which is intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled or sprayed on, or introduced into, or otherwise applied to, the human body or any part thereof for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance, and includes but are not limited to:

  • body care products (face creams, locations, etc.)
  • make-up products (concealer, foundation, etc.)
  • hair-care products (shampoo, conditioners, etc.)
  • oral hygiene products (toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.)
  • perfumes

Previous legislative attempts

In India, it is mandatory for manufacturers to display the color code, in order to identify the origin source on packaged foods, such as Green Dot (Vegetarian) and Red/Brown Dot (Non-vegetarian/Eggetarian)[1]. With a view to create awareness amongst the consumers regarding the source-origin of cosmetics and toiletries being purchased by them, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs had primarily introduced an amendment to the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, vide its notification dated June 16, 2014[2], wherein as per Rule 6 sub-rule (8) (Declarations to be made on every package) product packages containing soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and other cosmetics and toiletries, are required to mention on their display panel a green dot indicating vegetarian origin, or a red/brown dot indicating non-vegetarian origin.

The amendment was subsequently challenged in the Bombay High Court by Indian Beauty and Hygiene Associate (IBHA)[3], wherein Justice Kode, in lieu of the judgment delivered by the Apex Court in Indian Soaps and Toiletries Makers Association v. Ozair Husain and Others[4], held that the power to amend the provision with respect to declarations of labels of cosmetics or drugs, rested with the Centre under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 in consultation with the Drugs Technical Advisory Board only.

Current scenario

As of yet, the Cosmetics Act had not specified a mandatory provision for declaration of vegetarian or non-vegetarian labels on toiletries and cosmetics. However in 2019, due to religious sentiments as expressed by the Jain community and Department of Consumer Affairs, a proposal in this regard had been approved by the DTAB to subsequently amend the Drug and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. [5] The move was supported by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as it comes in the wake of government considering to use colour-code to segregate generic medicines from patented branded ones[6].

The Indian cosmetics industry is expected to cross the threshold of USD 20 billion by 2025[7] and there is a surge in the market for a growing preference of all-natural and herbal cosmetics and toiletries. Being in multi-religion country like India, where consumers choices are radically driven by their faith, the legislative attempt to amend the Drugs and Cosmetics Act is much to be lauded, as it keeps the consumers’ need on the forefront of the government agendas.

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[1] Rule 32 read with Rule 42 (zzz)(16) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955;  http://www.old.fssai.gov.in/Portals/0/Pdf/pfa%20acts%20and%20rules.pdf; accessed on May 20, 2020

[2] Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodity) Rules, 201; https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/sites/default/files/uploads/legal-metrology-acts-rules/8%28viii%29_0.pdf; file:///C:/Users/abc/Downloads/pc%20rules%202011%20(amended%20upto%20%20March%202016).pdf; accessed on May 19, 2020

[3] Indian Beauty and Hygiene Association and Ors. Vs. UOI; https://www.lawyerservices.in/Indian-Beauty-and-Hygiene-Association-and-Others-Versus-The-Union-of-India-and-Another-2014-09-09; accessed on May 19, 2020

[4] (2013) 3 Supreme Court Cases 641

[5] Colours soon to specify if your cosmetics are veg or non-veg products; https://www.newindianexpress.com/lifestyle/2018/may/20/colours-soon-to-specify-if-your-cosmetics-are-veg-or-non-veg-products-1817136.html; accessed on May 19, 2020

[6] Das, Sohini; Govt plans to specify a unique colour code for generic medicines; https://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/govt-plans-to-specify-a-unique-colour-code-for-generic-medicines-119040100017_1.html; accessed on May 20, 2020

[7] Cosmetics market to grow by 25% to $20 billion by 2025; https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/cons-products/fmcg/cosmetics-market-to-grow-by-25-to-20-billion-by-2025/articleshow/62838360.cms?from=mdr; accessed on May 20, 2020

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