How do we choose our ingredients?

Product safety is our top priority. Our home and personal care products are used every day by millions of people around the world. People trust us to provide them with products that are safe for them, their families and the environment.

Our ingredient standards

Unilever scientists at the Shanghai R&D centre

Our ingredient standards are determined by three key factors: laws and regulations, our own internal safety assessments, and changing consumer preferences.

At a minimum we ensure our products comply with applicable laws. In several areas we set our standards higher than those required by law. When this happens we also expect our suppliers and partners to meet these standards. Similarly, when we take on a new brand or a new company we work to ensure they meet our standards as soon as possible.

We apply the same standards wherever in the world our products are made, sold or used. Our standards are continually reviewed and updated in light of new information.

Find out more in ‘your ingredient questions answered'.

Safety and environmental expertise

Unilever has a dedicated Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) staffed by around 200 people, including scientists recognised as leaders in their field.

The core purpose of the team at SEAC is to assess the safety and environmental sustainability of Unilever’s products to assure that they are safe for the people who use them, our employees, and the environment.

Assuring safety and sustainability through scientific excellence and collaboration

As well as conducting our own pioneering scientific research, we also work closely with leading authorities around the world including regulators, government scientists and academic experts. This collaboration ensures we are always using the most up to date scientific advances within our safety and environmental sustainability assessments.

Our safety and sustainability assessments

From the initial bright idea for a new product, to making it, to selling it, right through to when the product is disposed of, our SEAC scientists are there every step of the way to guide our teams on safety and environmental sustainability.

Before we launch a product our SEAC scientists work with teams across Unilever to assess the product’s safety and impact on the environment.

We use internationally recognised safety and sustainability assessments that take into account the product’s technology, its ingredients, and how it will be used.

Understanding hazard, exposure and risk

Our safety assessment considers two key factors - hazard and exposure - in determining the level of risk of an ingredient or a product.

Potential hazards are all around us and sometimes in the places we might least expect.

For example: cyanide is a hazardous chemical and it can be released when apple pips are eaten.

We know that cyanide is a hazard but the very low levels released and which we are exposed to when we accidentally eat a few apple pips mean that it doesn’t pose a risk.

The hazard–exposure assessment is particularly relevant for selecting ingredients and ensuring they are used at the right levels to be both safe and effective.

When we assess exposure to a product we consider how much of the product is likely to be used each time, and the duration and frequency of use. We also include the possibility of foreseeable unintended use of the product; for example: using shower gel to wash hair.

By ensuring the levels of exposure to a product are well below those that may cause harm, we be can be sure that our products are safe for the people who use them, our employees, and the environment.

If any new information on an ingredient becomes available we assess it. If this information changes our previous risk assessment, we always take action.

Listening to you

From time to time some of the people who use our products tell us they would prefer us to make certain products without certain ingredients. All of the ingredients in all of our products are safe; nevertheless, where a suitable alternative ingredient is available we will always consider substituting.

If you have any questions about any of the ingredients in any of our products, please contact us.

Did you know?

Our SEAC scientists’ expertise covers chemistry, environmental safety, informatics, modelling, microbiology, process safety, occupational safety, environmental sustainability and toxicology.

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