On November 30, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration will host a Cosmetic Microbiological Safety Public Meeting in Washington, DC. Here’s the FDA’s meeting announcement. In case you didn’t know, the FDA regulates cosmetics in the United States. The Office of Cosmetics & Colors is the arm within the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) that is charged with “ensuring that … cosmetic products are safe and properly labeled.”
Over the years, I have had numerous in-person, telephone and email conversations with CFSAN representatives. These exchanges have always been cordial, and CFSAN representatives have gone out of their way to offer me and my members an opportunity to share our questions and concerns about how the FDA regulates cosmetics.
The upcoming Cosmetic Microbiological Safety Public Meeting meeting is of critical importance to all cosmetics companies. As you can see from the announcement,
“The purpose of the Meeting is to provide stakeholders an opportunity to present information regarding cosmetic microbiological safety and to suggest areas for the possible development of FDA guidance documents.”
As you might imagine, the nation’s largest cosmetics manufacturers, representing billions of dollars in annual sales, will be present at the meeting with their attorneys, lobbyists, research scientists, cosmetics chemists and other stakeholders.
I also expect representatives of special interest groups, including the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, both of which support federal legislation to overhaul state and federal cosmetics legislation, to be present and possibly offer comments in support of their positions on the pending legislation.
This Will Be a Critical Meeting for Cosmetics Manufacturers
The people who make oral comments live at the meeting will share information of critical importance to all cosmetics manufacturers, yet unless my members attend in person, they will not be able to see and hear what others say, nor will they have an opportunity to request to be heard in person.
This meeting would be important under any circumstances, but is is critically important now because HR 2359: The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 is pending in Congress. That bill contains numerous provisions having to do with the safety of cosmetics, including microbiological testing, preservative systems, ingredients, microorganisms, adverse events associated with microbial contamination of cosmetics and more.
Yet the meeting is not currently scheduled to be live streamed so the public can see and hear firsthand what is discussed. More importantly from my perspective as the leader of a trade organization serving hundreds of companies whose interests will be directly affected by the information shared at the meeting, I am concerned that the meeting is not going to be streamed live.
The FDA Has Live Streamed Important Meetings Before
On November 12-13, 2009, the FDA live streamed Promotion of FDA-Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media Tools (PDF). The live stream link is still accessible online. Along with several of my colleagues, I tweeted and blogged about the event. Even though I’m not in the medical products industry, it was incredibly informative and beneficial to hear the public comments live.
For small business owners, there is simply no substitute for seeing and hearing firsthand what influential industry participants are saying about your industry.
The meetings will take place at the L’Enfant Hotel, which boasts state of the art audio visual equipment and personnel. It appears from the FDA’s announcement that it has contracted with Planning Professionals Ltd. of Allen, Texas, to coordinate the meetings. I’m sure they can work with the hotel over the next few weeks to arrange an efficient and cost effective live stream.
Public Should Mean Public
It is my firm belief that a federal government public meeting is not truly “public” unless everyone with a stake in the outcome has a meaningful opportunity to attend and participate. Today’s technology makes this an easy task, yet so far, no such opportunity is provided here.
I have contacted FDA personnel to request that the proceedings be live streamed. My contact has assured me that I will be put in touch with someone to whom I can make a formal request. However, there isn’t much time, since the meeting is in a few short weeks, and those weeks include a federal holiday.
Additionally, because the deadline to request oral presentation time is November 10, and the deadline to submit written materials is November 21, time is of the essence. Because of the time constraints, I have informed my contact of my intention to publish this blog post so readers from all industries may share their comments and ideas about how important it is for the federal government to live stream this event so small business owners and the public can see for themselves what is involved in addressing cosmetic safety.
Do you think FDA should live stream this event? Why or why not? If you have experience in this area, is there enough time to set it up?