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New Partnership Focuses on Cosmetic, Dietary Safety

July 28, 2009 From the amount of lead in lipstick tubes or to documenting allergens in the latest thigh cream or self-tanning products, health and safety regulations are key for cosmetics and other products consumed by the public. Law professors at Georgetown understand that importance.

This month, the Law Center announced a partnership with the Vincent A. Stabile Foundation to endow new programs designed to protect the health and safety of consumers of cosmetics, dietary supplements and related products.

“Hopefully, these programs will help strengthen the government’s ability to fulfill legal obligations to protect consumers,” said law professor Joseph Page.

Law in the Public Interest

Funding from the Stabile Foundation , named after author Toni Stabile’s late brother, will allow the Law Center to re-establish its Lawyering in the Public Interest seminar and resume the work on consumer protection law that began in the early 1970s by Page and his law students.

Back in 1971, Page’s seminar tackled a series of consumer protection issues that ranged from lax regulations on cosmetic production to concerns over an absent requirement that cosmetic companies list ingredients in their products.

“Before [labeling regulations], if you wanted to start making cosmetics in your bathtub, you could, and you didn’t have to tell anyone what was in it,” said Page, who now serves as director of the university’s Center for the Advancement of the Rule of Law in the Americas.

Toni Stabile’s 1966 book, Cosmetics: Trick or Treat? that inspired Page and his students to examine lax labeling requirements for cosmetics and grooming products. Their efforts lead to Food and Drug Administration requirements in labeling disclosures under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act.

While most cosmetic ingredients are disclosed today, health risks associated with the products still exist. Georgetown and the Stabile Foundation plan to pick up where Page left off by re-establishing the public interest seminar.

“There are the same problems taking place as there were before,” Page said. “Ingredients in products don’t have to be tested (for consumer safety), and many of the recalls from contaminated products are on a voluntary basis.”

Courses Return With New Professors

The Lawyering in the Public Interest seminar will become two courses during the 2009-2010 academic year and will be taught by two other professors. Page will consult on the courses.

Sandra Schubert, adjunct law professor and director of government affairs for the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, will head the course on federal regulation of cosmetic safety and grooming products. Allison Zieve, adjunct law professor and director of the Washington-based Public Citizen Litigation Group, will teach the course on dietary supplements.

In addition to the courses, the Law Center has introduced the Toni Stabile Postgraduate Fellowship and the Toni Stabile Endowed Scholarship Fund to aid students and law alumni pursuing public interest work.

“Since Georgetown is ideally situated in the nation’s capital and just blocks from the agencies responsible for protecting American consumers,” Stabile said, “I am encouraged to know that its graduates will carry this work forward.”

Related Information

Georgetown University37th and O Streets, N.W., Washington D.C. 20057(202) 687.0100

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