- Safety Research Is Necessary to Ensuring the Safe Use of Products That Support Everyday Living
- Pursuing Safety to Occur Possible Risks from Real Life Situations
- Using Digital Technologies to Gather Information and Communicate as a Spokesperson on the Front Lines of Safety
- Collaboration with Other Companies to Develop New Evaluation Methods That Will Support Future Safety and Reliability
- To Earn the Trust of Consumers, Failure is Unacceptable
Safety Research Is Necessary to Ensuring the Safe Use of Products That Support Everyday Living
Satoshi Kojima, the researcher who coordinates Lion’s product safety operations, explains the basic purpose of his team’s work.
“From household products like toothpaste, hand soap, laundry detergents and household cleaners to pharmaceutical and health food products, Lion develops a wide variety field of products that help make life clean and comfortable. Our job is to verify that there are no potential negative effects when using our products by consumers, such as skin irritation or other physical reactions caused by product ingredients, or the environmental impact of wastewater generated. There are no product that have not been evaluated for safety. We have set evaluation items and judging criteria for each product and raw material, and conduct evaluations down to the smallest detail every day.”
Generally, in the development of a product, dozens of ingredients are combined. When considering a formulation of new ingredient that has never been used before, we evaluate it in a multi-stage process. First, the safety of each individual ingredient is evaluated. Then, once the approximate ingredient combination and dosage are determined, the prototypes are evaluated. Lastly, the product with the final formula is re-evaluated before launch. Thus, after conducting several steps of safety evaluation, the products can finally be delivered to consumers. We consider that it is always necessary to ensuring safety, we never release a product to the public without a safety evaluation, even if the product is a combination of ingredients that have been used.
Kojima points out the reasons for this, “Even if an ingredient is safe on its own, its safety may not be guaranteed when mixed with other substances. In addition, it is essential to verify the safety of the product under actual usage scenarios to ensure safe use. For example, a dishwashing detergent must be verified from various angles, including not only if it irritates the skin, but also effects on the human body if taken into the body through the mouth, and irritate if accidentally splashed into the eyes.”
Pursuing Safety to Occur Possible Risks from Real Life Situations
Kojima explains, “The most important factor in safety evaluation is determining the items to be evaluated, the judgment criteria, and the appropriate evaluation methods. For example, dishwashing detergents are intended to be used for washing dishes by hand, so the main item to evaluate is the effect on skin, and the main criteria is that they do not cause skin irritation or induce allergic reactions. In addition, since it is possible to ingest a small amount detergent components remaining on the dishes together with food, it is important to confirm that there is not harmful effect on the human body when the detergent is taken into the body. Because some consumers use our products in unusual ways, we create scenarios that include foreseeable misuses and set and assess evaluation items accordingly.”
In order to efficiently proceed with safety research, Kojima and his colleagues work side-by-side in close collaboration with the development researchers from the first stages of development.
Kojima explains how the cross-sectional involvement of all research divisions is a key feature of Lion’s safety evaluations, saying, “The evaluation results are immediately feed back to the development team, and we work together to think of ways to address issues as development proceeds, thereby quickly establishing formulas with a high level of safety. We advance safety research in ongoing dialog with various departments.”
Kojima also notes that the results of safety evaluations inspire and inform all of Lion’s researchers, recalling, “Sharing information about our evaluations of laundry detergents with the dishwashing detergent researchers has enabled us to apply insights and knowledges from laundry detergents to dishwashing detergents.”
Using Digital Technologies to Gather Information and Communicate as a Spokesperson on the Front Lines of Safety
One of the reasons other divisions’ research laboratories rely on the safety evaluation researchers is their ability to gather and analyze information that reflects rapidly changing social conditions. Chiaki Nakajo is in charge of gathering and analyzing safety-related information. To keep up with the latest trends related to the safety of Lion products, every day she checks more than 80 websites, ranging from those run by Japanese and overseas government agencies to those of newspapers and NGOs. In addition, Lion works with industry associations to ensure that there are no omissions in its data collection. Robotic process automation (RPA) is utilized to speedily search through this data, which is both wide ranging and vast in volume.
Nakajo explains, “By implementing the latest systems, we are automating and streamlining the collection of information so that we can spend more time on the aspects of analyzing and judging information that only we can do. While we share information immediately when necessary, we all also serve as a kind of ‘safety spokesperson’ by providing the latest information we have obtained to the other departments once a month.”
In Europe, there is a law called the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) which strictly collects of safety data on chemical substances. Nakajo addresses the creative ways Lion’s researchers leverage this regulation, saying, “Europe tends to be at the leading edge of identifying chemical substance issues and enacting regulations. Since the ASEAN regulators are strongly influenced by regulatory trends in Europe, we give priority to gathering information from Europe, then analyze the information, and communicate it to our affiliates in Japan and overseas in a timely manner. However, it is also necessary to scientifically verify whether the European standards is really necessary, rather than simply conforming without checking for ourselves.”
Collaboration with Other Companies to Develop New Evaluation Methods That Will Support Future Safety and Reliability
Lion is actively developing alternative testing methods that do not use animals. In particular, an officially recognized alternative testing method for evaluating oral mucosa irritation has yet to be established. Lion is one of three Japanese companies with strengths in the oral care field (along with Kao Corporation and Sunstar Inc.) conducting joint research to this end.
Seiya Aizawa, who is involved in the joint research, notes, “While manufacturers compete with each other in the market, safety departments are developed through mutual collaboration. We strive to improve the quality of safety evaluations by developing reliable test methods based on the latest science and technology.”
Because each company has particular strengths in different research areas, engaging in safety evaluation research jointly yields a broader perspective and enables the companies to take advantage of the best aspects of each of their research facilities during assessments.
Aizawa remarked, “We sometimes find it difficult to coordinate with other companies, as each is dealing with different issues and research priorities. However, it is very rewarding when we can reconcile the opinions of the various companies and develop more useful evaluation methods. Unlike product development, testing method development does not yield a tangible final product. However, as researchers we are very happy that if we establish good evaluation method, it may continue to be utilized for 10 or even 20 years. We are constantly conducting research to establish evaluation methods for safety of a wide range of active ingredients and additives.”
To Earn the Trust of Consumers, Failure is Unacceptable
Encompassing the establishment and assessment of evaluation items based on consumer usage scenarios, analysis of the latest regulatory trends and development of new evaluation methods, safety evaluation is a research area with many creative aspects. At the same time, if it is discovered that safety cannot be ensured at the final stage just prior to launch, the company will incur significant losses. Kojima notes, “We always try to evaluate while thinking ahead. If we can anticipate risks in the early stages of development, we can propose an approach from a different perspective.” Identifying safety risks as early as possible and making recommendations to ensure the provision of safe products is a very serious responsibility.
On the other hand, Mr. Kojima feels that, “When the product development team comes to me with a difficult problem and I am able to scientifically show that the product is safe, their gratitude is really rewarding. We also sometimes receive comments from customers that they can use our products with peace of mind. It is fulfilling to know that the safety of Lion products is appreciated by our customers, and, at the same time, these comments remind us that we cannot afford to fail in our safety evaluations.”
Kojima goes on, “For our customers, the safety of Lion products is an absolute condition. If a problem occurs even once, it is irreparable matter to our customers. A single problem may also cause uneasiness among customers who have been using Lion products with trust. By providing products that customers can use with confidence, we will continue to stand by our customers for many years to come.”
Lion’s research and development is focused not only on product creation. By continuing to pursue safety in an area where it is often taken for granted, we can provide an environment that enables consumers to continue using our products with peace of mind. Through safety research, we aim to contribute to the creation of better living habits.
Affiliations are as of the time of the interview. (Interviewed May 2022)
- The Japanese Society of Toxicology
Excellent Presentation Award
「Development of an Alternative Oral Mucosal Irritation Test Using a Three-dimensional Human Buccal Oral Mucosal Model －Verification of Criteria for Irritant / Non-Irritant Classification－」
(Lion researcher Seiya Aizawa received an award for joint research with Kao Corporation and Sunstar Inc.)
- Satoshi Kojima
- Since joining Lion, he has been engaged in safety research. He is responsible for the safety evaluation of all Lion Group products.
- Seiya Aizawa
- He is mainly engaged in the establishment of new evaluation methods and technologies in safety research.
- Chiaki Nakajo
- She is primarily engaged in gathering and analyzing domestic and international safety research information.