A Post To Etsy Sellers About SCA 2010

by Donna Maria on August 12, 2010 · View Comments

This morning, I added a post to a discussion on the etsy forums about SCA 2010. Thanks to everyone who has shared the Petition and other helpful information there. My post is a high level overview of three of the most problematic portions of HR 5786, so I thought I would share it here as well.

Hello Everyone:

My name is Donna Maria Coles Johnson and I am the founder and president of the Indie Beauty Network, a trade organization representing small, artisan and micro-manufacturers of cosmetics products and other items including jewelry, candles, soaps and aromatherapy products.

I have been a member of the etsy forums for quite some time, but I have not posted much due to time constraints. But I have a great deal of respect and admiration for companies that sell their products here, and I’m excited to see many of my members here as well.

Thank you Cheri (a reference to Cheri Tracy, who has posted the Petition on etsy a few times over the past few weeks) and others who shared and signed the Petition to HR 5786, the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010. Thanks also to people who are asking questions, sharing opinions and experiences and even opposing viewpoints. Progress requires open dialogue and I welcome this.

There are literally dozens of issues raised in the bill — so many that I cannot possibly raise them all here. But there are 3 main facts I’d like to point out, with your permission, to help tie the issues together and hopefully bring increased clarity to the discussion.

1. Safe cosmetics can be ensured without decimating small businesses state-by-state. This bill, as drafted, would put thousands of people out of work because their cosmetics businesses are their only jobs. For example, the bill specifically states that even when it passes, with all of its increased paperwork and registration requirements, states can still pass laws that are more stringent. That means that, eve if you comply with everything required at the federal level, to sell your products here on etsy to customers in other states, you would have to eventually possibly comply with 50 different state laws as well.

This is not an imagined issue. In March 2010, I along with several other cosmetics companies in Colorado, watched as that state held hearings to pass a law that would have removed thousands upon thousands of cosmetics off of the shelves of that state. The details are numerous, and you can read them in this blog post.

At the end of the day, the bill did not pass as you can see. But if it had, you would probably now not be trying to get your products into retail stores in Colorado. Even if you are not considering such a business plan at the moment, you would have been foreclosed form the opportunity in the future, and so would future generations.

No matter what happens with this bill, if states are allowed to continually update and change their testing, manufacturing and ingredient laws to potentially conflict with the FDA’s, no small company will be able to make and sell cosmetics legally any more. Moreover, etsy’s owners will be in the position of having to police everyone so that they are not potentially liable when any etsy seller operates under the radar in any state.

I made a video about this topic, and you can watch it here.

2. Ingredient registration and declaration requirements are not necessary to protect consumers. Current FDA law requires that all ingredients appear in descending order of prominence on the label of any cosmetic sold to a consumer, either online or offline. When using essential or fragrance oils, you can say “fragrance.” There are a few other minor exceptions, mainly trade secrets, which in my experience small companies don’t deal much with on a formal scale (i.e., there are typically no patents involved).

HR 5786 would require not only that ingredients be listed, but also the components of those ingredients, and also the components created as a result of the combination of those ingredients in a product, and also any byproduct components created as a result of reactions between the ingredients put in the product by the manufacturer and the container the ingredients are stored in.

In a nutshell, that will require that every company making a quarter-ounce tube of lip balm with olive oil and lavender oil in it will have to give the consumer an ingredient declaration that is 10 to 20 times the size of the product itself. Not only that, it requires that each and every product be tested to determine the component ingredients so that they can be disclosed on the label.

If you use all synthetics in your products, you’ll be fine with this since synthetics contain the same components each time. But if you use lavender essential oil from a different harvest as you run out, it means you have to do the testing all over again.

Now, I have heard proponents of this legislation say that the suppliers will do all of the testing, and then supply the small companies with the results. Somehow, they think this will make things better. It won’t, and here’s why.

If your supplier does this testing, it will cost you a lot more to buy the ingredient. You will also have to keep track of the testing results either by paper or in your computer somewhere. You will then have to know how to read the test results, and then how to put them on your label.

You will then have to go to the FDA registration database and change the ingredients and components listed for that product when the supplier produces a new batch of natural lavender oil — because each batch is a different distillation harvested under different weather and soil conditions — and the chemical components of each batch will be different.

And what if you can’t get the information from your supplier because they don’t know about the law, don’t care about the law or just haven’t gotten to it yet?

And each time you change suppliers, either because yours goes out of business or is just out of what you need, you will have to not only find a new supplier, but you’ll have to also go back to the FDA’s database and delete the old supplier and input the new supplier information.

When will you have time to make anything? And if you do, will you be focused more on paperwork and compliance or on safe manufacturing?

Consumers don’t have to know the names of the 40+ constituents in lavender essential oil in order to be safe. They just don’t.

3. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) apply as a one-size-fits-all principle. Under current law, GMP is voluntary. You don’t have to comply with it, but it is recommended that you do. HR 5786 makes GMP mandatory, but does not give the FDA any authority to implement GMP rules that take a manufacturer’s size into account. This means that, when FDA creates new GMPs, they will require a company making 100 tubes of lip balm a year to comply with the exact same manufacturing rules and procedures as a company make 100 tubes of lip balm a second.

If the FDA can’t take into account the size and unique situations of artisan and specialty companies when the promulgate new GMP, small and family-owned companies and non-business hobbyists will be put out of business.

This bill does not allow the FDA to require more stringent controls for higher risk products. It applies the same rules to all, regardless of how the product is made.

People who make things in small batches by hand control and take direct responsibility for their products. Their attention to detail will work against them as the FDA’s onerous requirements, forced by Congress put small companies under the bus.

You can get up to date details and other information at a new website I set up to track issues and share ideas and information here.

If you’re on Twitter, follow http://twitter.com/opposesca and the #OpposeSCA Twitter hashtag.

Please carefully consider joining the Indie Beauty Network as we oppose this law and work with elected officials, members, consumers and other trade and industry groups to craft legislation that protects consumers without decimating small companies.

I plan to share this post at the blog as well, so others not on etsy or not involved in this thread can see, share and comment as well.

Thank you for your time.

Donna Maria
Founder & President
Indie Beauty Network

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rachel Lane August 12, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Thanks for reaching out to the Etsy community to share this important information. It’s a strong, vibrant community who can join with us making our voices heard in opposing SCA 2010 so we don’t have another travesty like CPSIA.


2 Donna Maria Coles Johnson August 12, 2010 at 11:46 pm

I hope it will be well received. Thank you, Rachel, for encouraging me to reach out there. Together we rise.


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