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Industry confused 'mad-cow make-up'

April 2, 2002 South China Morning Post by Julia Han
The ban on imports of beauty products containing animal products from 18 countries, mostly European, due to fears they could spread mad-cow disease is causing confusion in China's cosmetics industry.

A statement was issued last month by the Ministry of Health and the State General Administration of Quality Supervision and Quarantine saying cosmetics made with brain or nerve tissues, intestines, placenta and blood from cows or sheep in countries that have seen cases of mad-cow disease would be banned.

But Jin Yiming, of the Sino-Japanese Shiseido Liyuan Cosmetics Co, in Beijing, said: "We have overseas certificates that guarantee that our products don't contain the banned substances, but we are still not sure if they meet the official requirements here because China doesn't have unified standards for cosmetics." The Beijing branch of L'Oreal said it was also not certain what the standards were.

Officials at the China Association of Perfume Essence and Cosmetic Industry do not seem any more certain. An association official said some Sino-foreign joint ventures had complained about difficulties in importing cosmetics and raw materials from Japan and European Union countries hit by mad-cow disease.

He pointed out Shanghai Customs officers were now demanding overseas certificates for imports of raw cosmetics materials. But he said he hoped the situation would become clearer after the Ministry of Health released a list of banned products later this month.

The only protection against mad-cow disease was to stop using the cosmetics, the Beijing Morning Post quoted Cai Ruikang, a dermatologist at the Air Force Hospital, as saying.

However, customers do not seem to be in a panic. "None of the cosmetics our store sells fit the description of the banned products," said a spokeswoman at Beijing's Scitech Plaza, which has not seen any reduction in sales.

At Beijing's Xidan Shopping Centre, a spokesman said cosmetics sales had not been greatly affected because lanolin cream, which contains placenta, accounted for only five per cent of the store's total cosmetics sales. In any case, he said, "we've followed the ruling and withdrawn products that don't qualify".

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