Retailer Claire's refusal to recall makeup that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said was contaminated with asbestos shows how little authority the agency has over cosmetics, even though many in the industry would welcome updated regulations, especially given the advancements in the field since 1938, when the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was passed.

The FDA called attention to its inability to order a company to recall a cosmetic product when it announced that its testing confirmed the presence of asbestos in makeup sold by Claire's and Justice, which market primarily to teen girls. Although legislative efforts to update the FDA's authority over cosmetics have stalled, the agency is indirectly appealing to Congress to take another stab at the issue, attorneys say.

"I would say that many companies, if not most companies, would welcome some continuity of regulation," said Aliza R. Karetnick of Ballard Spahr, who represents cosmetics companies. "They would welcome true guideposts and a level of transparency that provides consumers with confidence."

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