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Monday, 19 August, 2002, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
French perfumers in a stink
Perfumers say such labelling may ruin the entire industry
The EU wants perfumers to list all ingredients used
France's perfume producers are up in arms over a recent European Parliament directive which would force them to disclose the secrets of their centuries-old craft.

Not surprisingly, the producers of some of the world's most famous fragrances want to keep their recipes to themselves.


The recipes for our fragrances are our trade secret, our know-how, the very essence of our profession

Francis Thibaudeau
Perfumers' Society
Two amendments to the European directive on cosmetic products, which were passed by the European Parliament on 11 June, would require perfumers to label all the ingredients used in their fragrances and to identify any possible allergens.

The aim is to help consumers identify ingredients which might cause an allergic reaction.

The perfumers argue that given that more than 100 ingredients can be used in creating a fragrance, listing them all is unrealistic and impractical.

And it will damage the art of perfume making, they say.

"The recipes for our fragrances are our trade secret, our know-how, the very essence of our profession," Francis Thibaudeau, chairman of the Perfumers' Society, told French La Chaine Info (LCI) television.

But their main concern is that it will make it easy for manufacturers of copycat perfumes to imitate their brands and that it could ruin the entire industry.

Natural substances

The Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products has listed 26 substances which may cause allergic reactions.

In a second amendment, the European Parliament proposed restricting their use or imposing certain conditions on them.

Roses
Roses have always been a vital ingredient

But 16 of these substances are natural, such as lemon, rose or lavender extracts and, according to Mr Thibaudeau, this goes against a recent European initiative to promote natural aromas in perfumes.

"Lavender essential oil contains 40% of linalool, which is on the list of the 26 allergens, and, as a result, this essential oil, like 150 others out of the 200 on our range, may no longer be used in the making of perfumes," Francis Thibaudeau explained.

In Grasse, France's perfume capital, above the Cote d'Azur, which still produces 8% of the world's raw materials for fragrances, an entire community and years of tradition are in danger, perfumers say.

Allergy-free

Certain cosmetic houses have already ordered new fragrances free of allergenic ingredients.

According to Han-Paul Bodice, chairman of the Perfumers' National Trade Union, this measure is unnecessary since only a tiny quantity of each ingredient is used.

Perfumer at work
Full labelling will facilitate imitation

"We are going to prove that in 90% of all perfumes, the quantity of natural essences is not enough to spark allergic reactions," he told the French news agency AFP, adding that only one in 25,000 people is allergic to fragrances.

"Listing the ingredients will not provide any additional safety guarantees to consumers since for about 30 years now all our products have been carefully tested before being marketed," he told LCI.

A conciliation procedure has been started and perfumers hope that new negotiations due to take place in October will lead to a compromise.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

12 Dec 00 | Health
02 Nov 99 | Health
08 Aug 02 | Health
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