The detergents regulation and opportunities to improve communication of safety information to consumers


International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (A.I.S.E.), Brussels, Belgium


The Detergent Regulation review was a milestone to assess the success and weaknesses of this key regulatory requirement. From an environmental standpoint, the regulation has permitted advancement and is deemed as the gold standard for surfactants. Conversely, studies have shown that improvement is needed on communication to consumers who are currently confused by copious, crowded technical content on-pack. This is compounded with discrepancy on information provided, due to detergent products being subject to three separate regulations. The argument will be made that eliminating the duplication and inconsistency on-pack, focusing on key information and the use of well-designed icons would be more effective. Finally, the potential to use digital means to allow consumers to have highlighted, customised information will be discussed.

The Detergent Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 resulted from the congregation of a series of directives (1) into a more cohesive, European framework. Previous legislation on detergents had been set out since the early 1970s, but the Detergent Regulation consolidated the requirements and extended existing provisions. It stipulated that all surfactants used in detergents should be fully biodegradable, as well as setting out requirements for labelling of ingredients and safe/ sustainable use information. Then, with Regulation (EU) No 259/2012, another update was made imposing a ban on inorganic phosphates in domestic laundry and dishwater detergents.

The Detergents Regulation has been deemed a success overall, particularly in relation to environmental protection and the development of phosphate free formulations. In fact, it is estimated that 55000 tonnes per year of P have not been used due to the regulation (2) and it is often referred internationally as the golden standard for biodegradability of surfactants.

However, with regards to communication of safe and sustainable use to consumers, there are still points of impro ...