Lavender Farmers Against EU Regulations

In my latest article for the Financial Times Magazine, I wrote about the malaise affecting lavender. Another problem lavender farmers face is due to the new EU regulations. As ABC News reports, “They fear European Union rules adopted last year and due to come in force by 2018 will threaten [them]. According to regulators, lavender oil’s potential to produce allergies places it firmly within regulations on chemical toxins. That means lavender products will have to bear labels involving bold black and red warning labels with messages such as “CAN BE FATAL IF SWALLOWED OR INHALED.” Producers say the rules are too extreme — they note that lavender oil allergies usually produce only rashes — and too expensive for small farmers.”

lavender

You can read more about this issue in Lavender Farmers Rebel Against EU Regulations.

One thing is important to keep in mind. Lavender is not the only material that falls under the umbrella of REACH directive (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals). REACH applies to all chemicals imported or produced in the EU. Whether lavender essential oil deserves to be classed in the same group as hydrochloric acid is open to debate.

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90 Comments

  • Alex: Couldn’t they label this way all perfumes and stop with this crusade against so many ingredients? After all if you swallow it you are more than likely dumb. September 11, 2014 at 7:34am Reply

    • Sandra: Ha! Agreed September 11, 2014 at 8:13am Reply

    • Michaela: Right! 🙂 September 11, 2014 at 9:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Some big brands don’t want labeling, because they don’t want to give up the claim of “hypoallergenic” (a senseless, misleading claim at best). And well, the issue has gotten so complicated and political. September 11, 2014 at 2:21pm Reply

  • Michaela: Mais… c’est grave!
    As impossible or hilarious as it looks, it’s terribly serious and sad. All perfumes can trigger allergies. And so can flowers, fruits, feathers, honey, even the sun, anything. Lavender (essential) oil is one of the mildest and was considered safe until now.
    There’s something about sage, too, at the end of the same article. There’ll be something about any plant in the near future, this way, and we will be obliged to eat, drink, smell or use only safely laboratory produced stuff. Chemical synthetic stuff, for sure.
    I do hope French farmers to win this lavender war, at least to get it classified as agricultural product and not as a dangerous chemical. September 11, 2014 at 8:11am Reply

    • Alex: I agree with you, and it’s very sad what is being done. We’re destroying all that nature provides and we’re in a lab made safety bubble that’s not so safe after all. I was just hoping for a humorous point of view in something that is not so humorous to begin with. I sure hope they win too! September 11, 2014 at 8:25am Reply

      • Michaela: ‘lab made safety bubble’
        how I like that! 🙂 September 11, 2014 at 9:09am Reply

        • james1051: I think we all know by now, the synthetic stuff will make certain well connected companies obscenely rich, and will also produce “unexpected” horrific medical issues for some who wear them. Collateral damage.

          We’ve seen this movie before, many many times. September 11, 2014 at 8:23pm Reply

          • Victoria: I don’t understand how these regulations would make any company “obscenely rich”, especially if most manufacturers own the plantations of naturals or separate firms that process naturals. There is no one to one synthetic replacement for lavender. The costs for creating new synthetics are almost insurmountable today. September 12, 2014 at 5:52am Reply

      • Victoria: The truth is that it’s much easier to test synthetics (single molecules) for safety than natural materials, at least using the methodologies favored by the researchers on whom the EU Commission relied for its studies. For instance, vanillin is only one synthetic component, while natural vanilla essence contains more than 250 different molecules. To me, the big issue is with these methodologies and science behind them. September 11, 2014 at 2:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Just about everything can cause a reaction! Or what about mustard? Horseradish? Garlic? September 11, 2014 at 2:22pm Reply

      • Aisha: For me, it’s grass seed and freshly mowed grass (even though I love the scent). I’m not going to ask that we pour cement over all lawns. 😉 September 13, 2014 at 6:26pm Reply

        • Victoria: For me, it’s cantaloupe. I instantly get a sore throat after eating it. I’m not sure if it’s an allergy or something else, but it started happening slowly over time. Too bad, since I love melons of all sorts. September 15, 2014 at 3:44am Reply

  • Austenfan: I think peanuts should be stamped with a health warning. And wasps, and bees, and …. September 11, 2014 at 8:23am Reply

    • Hamamelis: Don’t forget human beings… September 11, 2014 at 10:14am Reply

    • Hamamelis: Stamped with a health warning I mean… September 11, 2014 at 10:14am Reply

    • Ann: Austenfan, I had the same thought!:

      Peanut butter: May cause DEATH if inhaled or ingested.

      Honey: May cause DEATH if ingested by babies.

      Corn Syrup: May cause DEATH and a number of health complications with repeated small overdoses of foods containing this ingredient–such as in almost every processed product sold on the planet.

      Bacon: May cause DEATH from carcinogens.

      Rubbing Alcohol: May cause DEATH if ingested and allergies if applies to the skin.

      Life: Absolutely guaranteed to cause DEATH at some point.

      (The horror! The horror!) September 11, 2014 at 11:54am Reply

      • solanace: Water: may cause DEATH by drowning

        Air: may cause DEATH if injected

        Sex: may cause DEATH from a heart attack

        Food: May cause DEATH by asphixiation

        And I agree with Alex: someone alcoholic enough to drink cologne is not likely to live very long anyway… September 11, 2014 at 2:09pm Reply

        • Michaela: I am delighted with your suggestions! September 12, 2014 at 8:14am Reply

      • Victoria: Brava! I love it!
        (Although my husband is quick to defend the bacon!) September 11, 2014 at 2:38pm Reply

        • Patricia: Haha! Men do love their bacon. (But it was the only thing I missed during my years as a vegetarian.) 🙂 September 11, 2014 at 6:22pm Reply

          • Victoria: I never cared for it until I met him. 🙂 Although when it comes to meat, pork and lamb are my favorites. September 12, 2014 at 5:53am Reply

      • Michaela: Ha ha ha, especially life, it is the most dangerous! 🙂 September 12, 2014 at 8:15am Reply

    • Victoria: In the US, products that contain or may contain peanuts carry a warning label. I don’t know if it’s the case here in the EU. September 11, 2014 at 2:23pm Reply

      • Austenfan: An increasing number of food stuffs are labelled if they contain nuts or other allergens. I suppose it’s probably the same in a lot of other EU countries.

        I hate to think what they will do to proper cheese. September 11, 2014 at 2:50pm Reply

        • Austenfan: I was actually thinking of stamping every single peanut, that would we interesting and create new jobs. September 11, 2014 at 2:54pm Reply

          • Victoria: Ah, that would great! Might as well stamp oranges, since peeling them causes way more limonene (also on the EU “toxic” list) to end up on your skin than you might get from most perfumes on the market. September 11, 2014 at 2:58pm Reply

            • Austenfan: My random mind has, once again, gone off on a Monty Python association where Graham Chapman suggests stamping a penguin as property of the zoo.
              The people making the decisions are as is usual not the ones with the knowledge. September 11, 2014 at 3:08pm Reply

              • Victoria: I love that scene! September 12, 2014 at 5:54am Reply

                • Austenfan: One of my favourite Python scenes. It is utterly silly and random. As are many regulations. September 12, 2014 at 12:05pm Reply

                  • Victoria: “First Pepperpot: Anyway, if it came from the zoo, it’d have ‘property of the zoo’ stamped on it.

                    Second Pepperpot: No it wouldn’t! They don’t stamp animals ‘property of the zoo’!! You couldn’t stamp a huge lion!!

                    First Pepperpot: They stamp them when they’re small.” September 12, 2014 at 12:08pm Reply

                    • Austenfan: “Why did you shout Birma?”
                      “I panicked!”

                      “What happens when they moult?”
                      “Lions don’t moult”
                      ” But Penguins do” September 12, 2014 at 3:54pm

                    • Victoria: I need to watch it again! Maybe, I will do this weekend. September 13, 2014 at 9:00am

                    • Austenfan: “If it lays an egg, it’ll fall down the back of the television set.” September 13, 2014 at 3:50pm

                    • Victoria: I’m laughing out loud reading this thread. September 15, 2014 at 3:45am

                    • Austenfan: Another favourite sketch is the election of the upper class twit of the year. And of course the French Taunting in Holy Grail. September 15, 2014 at 9:20am

  • Sandra: This is absurd! As mentioned before, so many things out there can trigger allergens. I had a face cream once that had me taking antibiotics for a week and a eye shadow that infected the skin on my eyes. Good grief! I am a huge fan of lavender- to me its so “natural” compared to other synthetic smells out there.
    Anyways, it’s 9/11 here in NYC and I am doing my part as a New Yorker by spending some quality time with friends downtown shopping and eating a ton at Balthazar. Nothing better then supporting and loving my home
    Off to shower with my lavender soap- if I swallow any accidentally I will keep you posted haha 😉 September 11, 2014 at 8:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Sending my best wishes to NYC and New Yorkers! How I wish I could join you, especially at Balthazar.

      Living life on the edge with that soap, aren’t you! 🙂 September 11, 2014 at 2:24pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Seeing danger everywhere is dangerous to the mind.
    It would be hilarious if it was not so sad. September 11, 2014 at 8:33am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree! I only hope that the drive to regulate everything will stop with the new EU cabinet. September 11, 2014 at 2:27pm Reply

  • Annette: This is ridiculous! Nay, this is preposterous! If they are so concerned about people’s health, why don’t they ban cigarettes?!
    I need a fix ( I am fuming too much). I need to smell something strong. Preferably with lavender 🙂 September 11, 2014 at 8:58am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m actually wearing a lavender perfume, and it’s very calming–Chanel Jersey! September 11, 2014 at 2:28pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: New inspiration for thriller authors: MURDER BY LAVENDER OIL. September 11, 2014 at 10:00am Reply

    • Victoria: My husband suggests “From Top Note to Six Feet Under”. 🙂 September 11, 2014 at 2:30pm Reply

      • Victoria: “Enfleurage Coffin”, “A Mysterious Decanting Death”, “Death by Distillation” were his other ideas. He’s on a roll! September 11, 2014 at 2:31pm Reply

        • Austenfan: This is hilarious! September 11, 2014 at 2:52pm Reply

        • Annette: “Lavandula the Tarantula” (mystery with a supernatural twist) 🙂 September 11, 2014 at 2:57pm Reply

          • Victoria: That’s hysterical! He continues with “Revenge of the Carnal Flower” and “Part Angel, Part Predator.” September 11, 2014 at 3:01pm Reply

            • Austenfan: She killed with Shalimar! September 11, 2014 at 3:09pm Reply

            • Annette: “Ten Little Lavender Seeds” (a remote island, ten lavender seeds found murdered, who’s the killer?) 🙂 September 11, 2014 at 3:10pm Reply

              • Victoria: All of these ideas are so funny! Someone needs to trademark them quickly. 🙂 September 12, 2014 at 5:54am Reply

                • Austenfan: I think we should redesign Cluedo. We could make a fragrant game, with perfumista tools as murder weapons. September 12, 2014 at 1:38pm Reply

                  • Annette: Splendid idea! I would go for a funnel and an MDCI bust stopper. September 12, 2014 at 2:14pm Reply

                    • Austenfan: Excellent suggestions! What about an Amouage bottle, they are quite heavy!

                      Or smother someone with parafilm! September 15, 2014 at 9:11am

                  • Annette: 🙂 Another suggestion: an Annick Goutal ribbon (to strangle people with, of course) 🙂 September 15, 2014 at 11:57am Reply

                    • Victoria: Actually, I just got a paper cut from a perfume box! 🙂 September 15, 2014 at 12:15pm

                    • Austenfan: After which the famous Godfather quote “Leave the gun but take the cannoli” could be altered to: “Leave the ribbon, but bring the jus”. September 15, 2014 at 12:24pm

                  • Annette: LOL! LOL! And some more LOL! September 15, 2014 at 12:56pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: LOL!! September 11, 2014 at 3:59pm Reply

    • Michaela: I can’t stop laughing. Just can’t! September 12, 2014 at 8:18am Reply

      • Annette: Michaela, don’t stop! A day without laughter is a day lost. 🙂
        This is specially for you: “Dr Laven and Mr Der” (the renowned sleep specialist keeps waking up in shabby clothes and with strange scratches on his arms. Is he leading a double life?)
        Cheers! September 12, 2014 at 12:56pm Reply

  • Cath: I’m LOL at all the funny comments. Thank you for the laughs. It is a sad thing what is about to happen, and I, like all of you probably, can not understand why, why, why.
    It is impossible (and stupid) to want to ban all that can trigger allergies. I’ve had a sun allergy when I was a teenager. So what are they going to do about that? Build a UV dome around planet earth? hey, it might be a way to prevent skin cancer as well. Let’s feed them that idea, who knows they’ll pick it up and after a few years of pondering hopefully realize the stupidity of their actions. Nature knows best. We are trying to “go back to nature”, avoid as many chemicals as possible in our foods, but we’re going to smear them on our bodies? Quelles conneries! September 11, 2014 at 10:20am Reply

    • Annette: I second the idea of the UV dome. But with some movable parts to let in the moonlight at night. Wait a minute! The moonlight is also harmful. Turns people into werewolves. Damn! 🙂 September 11, 2014 at 10:40am Reply

    • Victoria: The thing is that there are too many MEPs and not enough things for them to do, and each is trying to leave his or her market on “managing risk” for their constituencies. Now, I’m being facetious, of course. I love the concept of the EU, and it has done so many great things, but this tendency to regulate is not one of them. September 11, 2014 at 2:34pm Reply

      • Hamamelis: I think you are spot on Victoria, and the over regulation at micro level is, I am afraid, what will undo the EU in the end. People will just want to get away from the long fingers coming from Brussels. September 11, 2014 at 3:46pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’m not entirely against regulations, and some are necessary. In fact, many fragrance ingredient regulations that were passed previously were needed, because the industry has lagged at addressing some of the issues (and we know what a disaster it was when it was discovered that certain types of musks could accumulate in tissues and mother’s milk). But some of the latest EU regulations have been overly alarmist and backed by very questionable science. September 12, 2014 at 5:59am Reply

  • Ariadne: Victoria, I really appreciate that you include current events posts in this blog. I am struggling to understand the money trail on this one….who is ultimately going to be profiting by the increased ‘rigor’ and scope of the REACH directive? September 11, 2014 at 12:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s not about the profit from these regulations, but rather the political will, the desires of the MEPs to leave their stamp on the policy. I have attended so many talks and hearings on this subject (being in Brussels gives plenty of opportunities for that.) September 11, 2014 at 2:40pm Reply

  • Annette Reynolds: This sort of cover-your-ass legislation makes me crazy. There will always be someone allergic to something. Most of us find out what we’re allergic to the hard way; and then we try to never come in contact with that particular allergen in any meaningful way again. Note the term “meaningful.” Because walking by someone wearing a perfume which might contain an ingredient someone might be allergic to can’t possibly be considered meaningful.

    Yes, it’s tragic when there’s an unknown allergy (usually a child’s) that causes great distress or death. But most of those occurrences are completely random and not known until it’s too late. Or they’re accidental (a bee sting, for instance).

    But for rational adults it all comes down to common sense. If you hate reality shows, don’t watch them. If you don’t like liver, don’t eat it. If strawberries make you break out in a rash make sure what you’re eating doesn’t have strawberries in it. And if you can’t wear perfume, don’t buy it.

    Punishing the farmers/producers/small businesses isn’t in the best interest of this world’s economy. But if it makes the EU (and the State of California) happier, put a standard warning on every bottle of fragrance and let the aromas fall where they may… September 11, 2014 at 12:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s not rational, and I really don’t think that the intent was to punish the farmers. In fact, I think that whoever put forth these regulations didn’t think about the effect on the farmers. After all, the production of lavender is an important business in several European countries. September 11, 2014 at 2:49pm Reply

  • Anna: Fully agree with the outrage here! It is insane that something like lavender which has been used for centuries to add pleasure and comfort to life is being denied us by bureaucrats – if they get their way.

    Good luck to the lavender growers. Is there anything we can do in support? September 11, 2014 at 1:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: You can write to your EU representatives (if you’re in the EU).

      Lavender water is wonderful on sheets, and the aroma is so relaxing. I’m not giving mine up. September 11, 2014 at 2:52pm Reply

  • Maria B: California sounds better and better as a place to grow lavender. September 11, 2014 at 1:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: But the fragrance market is global, so anyone who wants to trade with the EU would have to comply with REACH. September 11, 2014 at 2:54pm Reply

  • Joy: We, (collective), have lavender farmers affected by insect infestation likely due to affects of global warming. We have mercury in the fish of the sea due to our pollution. We have wildfires burning in the West USA due to affects of global warming. We have food products stored in containers lined with toxic materials. Our GMO crops are treated with toxic materials. We have government agencies who are worried about lavender flowers??? This is a level of insanity. Is there a Jacques Tati film that I should see to gain a humerous insight into this?

    What about human individual choice and decisions? Can we not determine carefully whether or not we are allergic to various products?
    My soapbox is rattling with indignation. I will hop off. September 11, 2014 at 1:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, the lavender troubles in Provence are all man-made. It’s hard to overestimate the impact of the insect infestation and the resulting disease. Very sad. September 11, 2014 at 2:56pm Reply

  • solanace: This is just stupid. I hope they realize that such hard to cultivate crops used in perfumery are an important part of Europe´s cultural heritage and economy. Ok, no one cares a darn about culture, so let´s hope that such bans are as economically unsound as they seem.
    O mores… September 11, 2014 at 2:17pm Reply

  • Michael: This is crazy, and is yet another example of why the EU needs a serious makeover. When unelected bureaucrats and petty functionaries are allowed to create rules to apply to anything that moves- or doesn’t for that matter, this is the result. It is time for us all to say enough and reverse this nonsense. September 12, 2014 at 3:34am Reply

    • Victoria: Well, imagine that there are around 800 MEPs, and if each decides to take up a particular “risk management” initiative. It does look like the new cabinet will try to roll back the avalanche of initiatives, though. September 12, 2014 at 5:48am Reply

  • Kat: I’ve seen several articles on this and I am still confused. As far as I know what’s causing problems is linalool. Does this mean that any product containing linalool must be labeled that way? And is there a difference between naturally produced linalool and synthetic linalool? Linalool is in almost everywhere – so good luck with that. And on a side-note: I suffer from allergies and I’m glad there are regulations ensuring proper labeling (and I do wish they were tighter in some cases – ‘may contain…’ being a pet peeve of mine). The often flippant attitude displayed against proper labeling is somewhat off-putting. Yes, you can be allergic to almost every substance under the sun and the moon. That does not mean labeling is useless. It helps to prevent contact with well-known allergens but it also helps those who suffer from freak allergies. I do agree though that adding alarmist warnings like the ones mentioned here are over-reaching. My toothpaste contains hydrochloric acid (and linalool!) – where’s the warning that I’m not supposed to use it as jam? September 12, 2014 at 5:41am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t think that most consumers object to the proper, well-placed, well-explained labeling (the big brands is another story; they’d rather reformulate than label), and in fact, proper labeling will solve all of this.
      There are a number of components in lavender that can cause an allergic reaction, from what I understand, and no, there is no difference between natural or synthetic linalool. A molecule is a molecule. And if linalool is an issue, then yes, any product containing linalool over a certain percentage will have to be labelled. September 12, 2014 at 5:47am Reply

      • Kat: Thanks for the clarification with regards to linalool. I’m still surprised that not more people are objecting but I suppose the ‘certain percentage’ part makes sure that companies using linalool will hardly be affected. I agree that proper labeling and already existing regulations – I’ve never seen a bottle of essential oil not containing a warning to keep out of reach of children etc. – should actually cover any problems. And speaking of essential oils, what about all the others beside lavender? September 12, 2014 at 7:33am Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t remember the exact list of materials that require a label, since it’s rather long (more than 80 materials total, most of them are synthetics), but the orange oil is on the list too. Which is why I made the joke being oranges needing to be labelled too–you get lots of orange oil on your skin when you peel them!

          The limitation of the use of linalool can be a significant problem for many perfume formulations, because it’s a commonly used material. The perfume companies have been protesting and lobbying for the regulations to be relaxed, and they achieved some of their aims. The situation right now is not as dire as what would have been the case had the original suggestions been adopted. September 12, 2014 at 8:41am Reply

  • Aurora: Just back from Provence I am reading this timely follow-up to your Financial Times article that first alerted me to the dual problem facing lavender: restrictions and disease.

    I visited the distillerie Bleu Lavande in Nyons(they have an official website) and bought some organic lavender essential oil, some organic geranium rosat and I am going to use your instructions to make scented products.

    Before I forget, there is a petition to sign at http://www.lavande-provence-aoc.

    While in Nyons I experienced a riot of scents: wild thyme, rosemary all kinds of fir smells, various types of lavender, roses, so didn’t even feel the need to wear perfume. Gorgeous September weather following a rather wet August (by the region standards). September 15, 2014 at 7:32am Reply

    • Austenfan: I visited the exact same distillerie last year. Wonderful products!.
      I also visited the olive oil mill quite close to the distillerie. ( Moulin Dozol Autrand) September 15, 2014 at 9:13am Reply

      • Aurora: So glad to find a fellow traveller!. The distillery is really worth seeing isn’t it.

        I went to the Moulin/Mill d’Autrans as well: so many soaps it makes one dizzy!

        My brother has a house near Nyons so I take the opportunity whenever I can to spend time there once a year. September 15, 2014 at 9:41am Reply

        • Austenfan: I’ve only visited Nyons twice. I don’t know the area that well. East of the Drôme is much more familiar territory for me.
          Moulin Dozol Autrand is very famous, their oil has won numerous medals. It’s actually the most northern area in France where olives are grown.
          I loved the Distillerie Bleu Provence. I got a huge bottle or organic Lavandin oil, which I use to scent my washing. September 15, 2014 at 10:06am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much for letting me know about your trip. It sounds wonderful, all around. When I was in Provence for the rose harvest, I didn’t even bother bring any perfume with me. It would have been superfluous! 🙂 September 15, 2014 at 12:20pm Reply

  • Aurora: Sorry, link doesn’t work google lavande AOC and go to Signez la petition APAL. September 15, 2014 at 8:17am Reply

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