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The MEPs are calling for the new legislation to be reassessed after three years and reviewed after five years in the light of separate legislation which is in the pipeline on the biodegradability of surfactants, a key ingredient of detergents. Using the "sunset clause" approach, as in financial services legislation, subsequent implementing rules for this legislation which are adopted by an advisory committee would expire after eight years unless they are renewed by EU law-makers. The MEPs stress the need to tighten up the consumer information rules, particularly those applying to product labelling.

The MEPs also want to shorten and group together the list of substances to be labelled in order to make them easier for consumers to recognise. In addition, they are keen for not just enzymes and disinfectants to be labelled but also preservatives, perfumes and optical brighteners. A complete list of added substances should be published on the Internet and should also be available by telephone or supplied in writing, according to the manufacturer's preferences. If a product carries any claim to be "green" but not the European eco-label, the MEPs say it must clearly indicate which of the European eco-label criteria it does not fulfil. Lastly, the Committee says that national rules on detergents should remain valid as long as there is no EU legislation to the contrary.


The draft Regulation on detergents and surfactants (COM(2002)287) lays down rules seeking to ensure the unimpeded movement of these products, while guaranteeing a high level of environmental protection. The Regulation specifies new requirements for the biodegradability of the surfactants in detergents and the labelling of detergents and therefore updates existing Directives on these points. The new biodegradability tests on offer would guarantee a higher level of environmental protection, while applying to all kinds of surfactants in detergents. The measures in the Commission Recommendation 89/542, applying to the labelling of cleaning products and providing consumers with specific information about the presence of detergents in fragrance ingredients, become mandatory for products covered by the new Regulation.


The Council adopted its common position last November 4 (see European Report 2818), and the position was backed by the European Commission subject to two declarations. One on fragrant allergens: it stresses the need to take all the vital measures required to guarantee detergents are suitably labelled so that people suffering from allergies will be able to avoid certain components. The Commission will be urging the Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-Food Products intended for Consumers to consider studying the matter so as to set individual limits, based on the risks, for fragrance allergens. The second declaration focuses on the publication of standards: the Commission realises that some standard trial methods are somewhat outmoded and have to be updated. What this involves in many cases are national standards that are available only in their original language. The Commission is urging the CEN (European Committee for Standardisation) to study the national standards available and to adopt equivalent European standards where possible. As soon as they are available, the European Commission will propose incorporating them into the Regulation by means of the management committee system ("comitology").
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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Dec 6, 2003

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