Consumer Lays Complaint With Commerce Commission
MEDIA RELEASE 6 June 2008
Consumer Lays Complaint With Commerce Commission Over Sunscreens
Consumer NZ has today laid a complaint with the Commerce Commission over what it believes to be misleading claims made by the Cancer Society on two of its sunscreens, and on an Australian sunscreen widely available in New Zealand called SunSense Ultra.
The complaint follows Consumer NZ-commissioned testing of 10 of the country’s most popular sunscreens to see if they met their sun protection factor (SPF) 30+ claims. A Cancer Society Roll-On Sunscreen reached only an average 28.5 SPF, its new formula Sunscreen with Insect Repellent failed the Broad Spectrum test and the SunSense Ultra sunscreen reached only an average 25.5 SPF.
Consumer NZ had asked for the products to be recalled but the Cancer Society and the makers of SunSense Ultra, Ego Pharmaceuticals have refused, both citing what they say are problems with the testing regimen. In the case of SunSense, the maker blames “variations of human skin, product application, solar simulators and inter-laboratory testing”.
Consumer NZ absolutely rejects this. The sunscreens it commissioned for testing were to the standard, on 10 human subjects. CEO Sue Chetwin said the test standard was tightly controlled, including strict guidelines for application and equipment, a reference sunscreen, and tight controls on variation between subjects. “This is the same standard of testing that both Ego and the Cancer Society used to gain their original SPF 30+ rating.
“The lab Consumer NZ used for testing was one of only two in Australasia which is able to do this kind of testing and we stand by the results,” Chetwin said.
Ego said it had test data from the only other lab, the Australian Photobiology Testing Facility, which showed its SunSense Ultra had an average SPF of 32. Consumer has asked the maker when that test was done. In an earlier test this year of the Cancer Society’s Trigger Spray which also failed to meet its SPF 30+ claim, Consumer learned the SPF had not been tested to the standard since 2001.
“We believe that this is a flaw in the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s regulations. While the active ingredients are regularly monitored, there seems to be no further testing of their protection once they are on shop shelves.”
Consumer is also concerned that the Australian/New Zealand standard for sunscreens is not compulsory here, though it is in Australia. Consumer is urging the government to reclassify sunscreens as therapeutic products rather than as cosmetics, so that any claims about protection have to be supported by evidence.