mardi 1 décembre 2009

IFRA gives vanillin a reprieve

Ever since last spring I’ve been hearing perfumers howling about IFRA’s 44th Amendment, which, they said, restricted the use of vanillin to a point where a lot of perfumes, even very recent ones would have to be reformulated.

I was actually going to post a vanilla warning – in other words, STOCK UP on you favorites – when I received an information letter from IFRA’s Scientific Director Matthias Vey, stating that “the implementation of the Standard on vanillin has been suspended (…) because of late comments on the impact of the Standard”. A new, higher level of vanillin could be considered. In other words, they're back-tracking.

Could it be that the industry Big Boys finally raised their voices? I can imagine LVMH’s Bernard Arnault frowning at the perspective of dealing the final death blow to several Guerlains and tweaking sundry Kenzos, Diors and Givenchys… Chypres may be spayed – who loves’em anyway except old ladies? – but the all-popular gourmands? Pas question. The perfume industry doesn’t need that right now, does it, what with sales plummeting...

I know a few perfumers who were already trudging back to their labs to reformulate things that literally just came out, or were about to, heaving a cautious sigh of relief.

As for the pod people: no need to build up a stock of Shalimar, Spiritueuse Double Vanille, Tocade, Lolita Lempicka L, or Havana Vanille just yet.

26 commentaires:

  1. I'm puzzled as to why the IFRA needs to constantly restrict materials as such. Are people dying from allergic reactions the world over? Is vanilla a threatened species?

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  2. That's wonderful news! No chance, I suppose, that they will reconsider all the other wonderful ingredients they want to ban/diminish?
    Jillie

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  3. Jillie, IFRA's stance is that as new information comes in, they are ready to revise their standards. Of course, there won't be much hope of fragrance companies reverse-reformulating, especially if the rehabilitated material is no longer produced for lack of customers... Still, it's a glimmer of hope.

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  4. This is good news. :) I hope they back track a bit more...

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  5. Ines, I'll be burning non-compliant candles to Oshun, Saint Mary Magdalen, or anyone who'll listen...

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  6. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par l'auteur.

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  7. Andrea: yes, we must've missed those reports of entire populations scratching themselves bloody and throwing themselves in the river for relief, thus drowning.
    The only rationale is that the perfume industry wants to allay any suspicion of being harmful in the tiniest possible way: a pimple and boom! no more Mitsouko.

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  8. Very interesting. And as you say, a glimmer of hope. I remain pessimistic about oakmoss, jasmine and citrus oils for now...

    As IFRA ventures into food-grade materials the whole thing just gets odder and odder. Imagine the amount of vanillin the average processed-food junkie consumes in a single day!

    Thanks for the report. And for that wonderful image of perfumers heaving a collective sigh of relief.

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  9. Alyssa, in the post I was about to write I pondered on that: how much vanillin touches our lips, or our face through contact with our fingers, and yet the food industry isn't getting class-actioned, is it?

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  10. Exactly. I wonder, for instance, how much vanillin is in a box of "Vanilla" Wafers (the Nabisco cookie.) I'm thinking maybe the food conglomerates got wind of this upcoming ban and said hey, just a minute here boys 'n' girls! We feed that stuff to people! Because, in food, vanillin is the cheaper substitute for vanilla and it's in many, many processed foods.

    Even LVMH wouldn't want to mess with Archer Daniels Midland, now would they.

    Just a random thought.

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  11. Olfacta, the food industry might have something to do with it, though it's an entirely different set of regulations and regulatory bodies.
    There is also the fact that as I understand it, the scientific reports the RIFM base themselves on apparently just state test on a given material, not on this material as produced by a specific lab, with specific synthesis paths, and a specific grade of quality. So that in fact, we don't know which sample of vanillin, say, Pr. X used. The testing is thus irreproducible, and the allergic reactions could stem from the particular quality of that particular vanilla rather than from the molecule itself.

    This is an interesting link from Cropwatch:

    http://www.aromaconnection.org/2009/05/ifras-proposed-44th-amendment-more-grief.html

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  12. Interesting. I didn't know there were so many ways to produce vanillin.

    I'm wondering if food-grade vanillin is the same substance. I remember reading once that fenugeek, the plant from which imortelle is made, is also a source for vanilla substitutes.

    I do think, though, that the Nabiscos of the world, and those conglomerates who produce the ingredients for processed food (like ADM, whose business is in large part the manufacture of corn-based fructose) might be more than just a little concerned that "vanillin" is getting a bad rap, even if that is coming from another industry or regulatory body. Not a conspiracy theorist, but this makes a certain amount of sense to me. To the public, vanillin is vanillin.

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  13. Olfacta, currently, from what I understand, it's mainly extracted from a by-product of the petrochemical industry, guaiacol (as in guaiac wood), though it was first made from eugenol (as in cloves), then wood pulp. Some guy even won an Ig Nobel prize for extracting it from cow dung!
    However, I suppose the quality of it would depend on specific aspects of the process: allergic reactions could, for instance, be triggered by impurities remaining from the process rather than from the molecule itself.

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  14. For more on this vanillin thread, and other thoughts on molecular level materials and how they're produced, do see the recent article on flavor production in the New Yorker. According to that journalist--and he uses vanillin as an example--once you get down to the molecular level there really is no difference between stuff derived from wood pulp and stuff derived from cow dung. In fact, he argues that vanilla and vanillin are in fact the same thing, and that only the sourcing forces the industry to put the "in" on. That last bit doesn't quite make sense to me, since I don't think folks making extract are deriving only the vanillin molecules from the beans, but I suppose if they were it would be true.

    At any rate, The Big Boys make as much if not more of their money on synthetically derived flavors as they do on fragrance, and
    --to Olfacta's point--once the bright light starts shining that way it would not surprise me at all if IFRA suddenly slowed down a bit.

    Unfortunately, nobody eats oakmoss, nor can they patent it...

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  15. Alyssa, I'll try to get my hands on that issue, is it the current one?
    I'm no expert, but from what I've understood there can be impurities in certain grades of synthetics. Apparently that's what put coumarine on the chopping block: not the molecule itself but the by-products of the synthesis process. I need to get someone to explain this to me properly... Off to send out some emails!

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  16. I think the New Yorker article might be up on their site -- Robin had a link up at NST. Tried to find it for you but had to give up and get back to work, darn it! Totally worth a read...

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  17. Alyssa, I must be thick. Can't find it. :-(

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  18. I think Olfacta is definitely on to something! Follow the money, I keep saying, where IFRA is concerned.

    Also - this is one "old lady" for whom Chypres will never die, and I am in the process of collecting as much oakmoss-laden vintage stuff as I possibly can. If it kills me at least I will die happy. :-D

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  19. Flora, there's a good chance of that, isn't there? But there's a glimmer of hope in the fact that a precedent of sorts may have been established.

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  20. Yet another excellent, informative post -- thanks for being such a good resource.
    All the best,
    Michael

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  21. D--just got this from the P&F newsletter:

    ***The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) will assume the fragrance-related regulatory and advocacy activities of the European Flavour & Fragrance Association (EFFA), effective January 1. At a time when a number of regional organizations, including US-based Fragrance Materials Association, are facing booming regulatory-related costs, IFRA's move seeks "sharper specialization at a time of increasingly difficult challenges facing the fragrance industry," in addition to an expansion of its advocacy and communication initiatives.

    According to the announcement, "The eight national European associations will now become direct members of IFRA and an EU steering committee will be formed to guide the activities of the new department. This committee will consist of, among others, representatives of the national fragrance associations and direct members of IFRA." Meanwhile, the REACH task force and groups focused on specific EU issues (cosmetics, detergents and air care) will continue under the new IFRA European affairs department.

    Two thirds of EFFA's current staff will remain with the rechristened European Flavours Association. Cristina Arregui, REACH manager, will move to the new IFRA EU affairs department.

    Of the move, EFFA president Christian Solomon said, “The scope of EFFA will change. The membership felt that both sectors, flavors and fragrance, would be better served by dedicated association teams specializing in each area.”***

    Seemed very relevant to our discussion here about the connection between flavor and fragrance regulation. And it has me wondering just who, exactly, is in charge over there at IFRA, and whether the increased regulation isn't at least partly a move to gain more power. Certainly, many more people are paying attention now than they were before, and now they're consolidating... Sigh. I wish I were a real investigative reporter with an editor and a budget. But I guess those are pretty hard to come by nowadays, eh? And they're probably off covering a war or something.

    Anyhow--was curious whether you'd have any reactions or insights into this news.

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  22. Thank you for this timely info, it is encouraging, albeit a tiny crack in the IFRA stonewall. I've passed the link on to several yahoo groups with readership of over 5,000 combined. They tend not to be chatty off-group, but I'm sure they'll appreciate your post and comment within.

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  23. Alyssa, I saw that article too, but sorry, no insights.
    All I know is that fulfilling the guidelines for REACH is going to cost a heap to aromatic materials producers.
    Every material sold in quantities over a metric ton must have a full safety data sheet supplied: the larger the volume, the more detailed the data. Those studies are very costly and companies are loath to share their data for fear other companies might just save themselves the expense and poach it.
    REACH (which concerns all chemicals put on the market in Europe) will affect the whole aroma and fragrance industry. It's not surprising that resources and data are pooled to face that challenge.

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  24. Anya, thanks. I hope people do comment here if they have more insights into the matter.

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  25. Thanks, D. That makes sense.

    And here's the info on the New Yorker article. It's available through their archive for subscribers:

    Raffi Khatchadourian, Annals of Science, “The Taste Makers,” The New Yorker, November 23, 2009, p. 86

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