Lipsticks that cause allergic reactions? Mascara that causes eye irritation? If you’ve bought a product that has caused a health issue, it might be a good idea to file a consumer complaint with the Philippine FDA or with the DTI.
Many consumers believe that the government makes sure that the ingredients in their cosmetics have been thoroughly investigated and tested before they are ever used.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Philippine FDA is pressed for resources and manpower. The FDA itself notes this in its progress report, saying:
“…the current number of FDA personnel is inadequate and its expertise has remained virtually unchanged considering the rapid development of regulation in an array of products…”
It goes on to state that 1,200 people would be the optimum staffing and that the current staff is 300 technical staff and 179 inspectors.
That’s a pretty big shortfall.
And while we have a stringent set a requirements and a long list of banned chemicals, which I believe is taken from the EU Cosmetic directive 76/768/EEC, there is a need for better enforcement.
Earlier this year, the Phil FDA announced a partnership with the Philippine National Police. There was a joint training of the two departments but of the 111 personnel, only 16 were from the FDA.
In Mindanao, the appointment of personnel made the news in the article FDA’s enforcement unit now has 4 armed personnel. It also states that the head fears that 4 might not be enough to cover the entire eastern Mindanao.
Since Mindanao is 104,530 km2 and eastern Mindano might conceivably be half of that, I can see his concern.
So, while there might be great laws and intentions, there aren’t enough resources to enforce.
Aside from that, the cosmetics industry has thousands and thousands of chemicals that are allowed in use without any safety information available or any testing. The attitude is that when something happens, then they’ll stop using it.
That covers those substances that are immediately fatal, but completely hides the bad effects that arise from the slow build up of toxins and daily exposure to subtle and harmful chemicals.
With weak enforcement of laws and a lot of unknowns, it is probably even more important that the consumer step up.
How to file a consumer complaint
Filing a consumer complaint in the FDA is pretty straightforward.
It’s mainly sending an email through the FDA email firstname.lastname@example.org, although there is also a customer complaint form that is present on the FDA website.
There are guidelines for its processing, and are fairly basic. A report is filled up either by the consumer or an FDA officer if notified through the phone, with laboratory testing to follow if the criteria for acceptance is met.
For cosmetic products, criteria for acceptance is:
- A notified cosmetic product,
- Registered household hazardous substances and pesticides,
- Sample is not yet expired,
- Suspected presence of adulterants and contaminants, as specified by the CCRR, and
- Adverse reaction occurred despite use of product as directed (to be accompanied by a medical certificate, or as certified by the CCRR or the CDRR.
While I’ve written what I know about the process of filing the complaint, I wonder whether the agency is able to address these complaints quickly.
I’d love to know if anybody’s filed one and what has happened to it – there doesn’t seem to be much information on it yet.