lavender warning

Article by: Perry Romanowski

I read this article about French lavender farmers who are outraged by EU regulations that will require manufacturers who use lavender oil to put a warning label on their product. Some of them are even threatening to switch to a different crop. lavender warning

This seems like a strange reaction to me as it makes complete sense to me that an ingredient which is known to cause allergic reactions in some consumers should be labeled. Perhaps it shouldn’t require a big warning label but if you’re not going to require a warning label for an ingredient known to cause reactions on skin you certainly shouldn’t require a warning label for an ingredient that merely has the potential for causing problems.

French Defense

According to the lavender growers they shouldn’t be required to comply with these regulations because their ingredient “…is not a chemical and allergies only tend to produce rashes.” The argument that they are not selling chemicals is wrong. Lavender oil is a mixture of chemicals and some component of those chemicals causes allergic reactions in a large number of people. Just because something is natural does not mean it is not a chemical.

And the defense that “…allergies only tend to produce rashes” hardly seems like a defense at all. Even if they did only produce rashes wouldn’t a consumer want to know that? Isn’t the entire purpose of these warning labels is to let consumers know that they may expect some negative reaction to using a product?

In the case of a rash that is an immediate effect that I think most consumers would want to avoid. When a product is labeled as “potential carcinogen” there typically is no immediate effect. In truth, there is probably no noticeable effect at all. When things are labeled with warnings like “potential carcinogen” that doesn’t mean there is proof that using the product with the ingredient in it will cause cancer. If anyone could prove that using an ingredient in a cosmetic would cause cancer no one would be able to use that ingredient. It’s just very difficult to prove a definitive connection between an ingredient and cancer.

Cosmetic labels that make sense

Labeling products that may cause allergic reactions in people is exactly the type of labeling that should be done. When there is a clear effect consumers have a right to know. Now, I don’t necessarily agree that there should be some additional warning label as long as you list the ingredient on your LOI, but this should be true of any cosmetic ingredient. If it is legal to use the ingredient in producing a cosmetic, you shouldn’t have to warn people that you are using it. If you have to have a warning that the product is somehow dangerous it shouldn’t be allowed in the formula in the first place.

3 comments

  1. Harald

    Yes, Colin, that’s even old information to those interested in actual research. The fearmongers won’t listen anyway. Sad as it is. And if linalool-containing products are properly protected from oxidation, there shouldn’t be a need for any warning label.

  2. Colin

    Hi Perry, your link isn’t working at the moment, but I have been keeping an eye on this story so I think I can guess what it would have said. These aren’t the cosmetic regulations but REACH that is giving them a new labelling requirement. I have a feeling that the rules are being applied incorrectly in their case, but REACH is really really complicated and as I don’t have a dog in this race I’ll leave it to others to sort out.

    I agree with your point about labelling risks in principle but I wouldn’t want anyone to go away with the idea that lavender is particularly likely to cause rashes. Our mutual friend Dene tackled this conscientiously three years ago. His conclusion was that it was safe enough.

    http://personalcaretruth.com/2011/12/lavender-oil-and-negative-innuendo/

    If we do decide to bring in laws to require unusually allergenic formulations to be labelled, I don’t think lavender oil would be on the list.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Thanks for letting me know. I fixed the link.

      And thanks for the link to Dene’s article. He always has good stuff.

      I’m not really a big fan of any kind of warning label as they are designed to warn a tiny minority of affected people but have the effect of frightening a majority of misinformed consumers.

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