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Consumer Test Shows Cancer Society Sunscreen Fails

8 February 2008

Consumer Test Shows Cancer Society Sunscreen Fails

Consumer NZ announced today that tests it had done of the Cancer Society sunscreen SPF 30+ Trigger Spray showed it significantly failed to meet the SPF claim. The Cancer Society has agreed to urgently recall the sunscreen.

The Consumer-commissioned test was carried out on 10 volunteers. The sunscreen achieved only an average SPF of 23.3.

Cancer Society sunscreens are among the most popular in the country and Consumer has not taken this step lightly. It believes the Cancer Society should now urgently test the SPF claims on all its sunscreen products.

Consumer NZ CEO Sue Chetwin said it had alerted the Cancer Society to its findings this week. The society has retested Consumer’s test sample and some of its own. Preliminary results also show a significant failure, with an average SPF of less than 20.

“This is a major public health issue, particularly in New Zealand with its high rate of melanoma and at this time of high UV levels. The Cancer Society needs to look at urgently testing all its products.”

Consumer decided to do the testing after it received a complaint from a consumer in November last year. Ginette McConnochie questioned the efficacy of the sunscreen after she noticed several people, including her daughter, had been burnt while using the spray, although they had been reapplying it regularly. We asked the Cancer Society for evidence to support the 30+ SPF claim and were sent test results that showed the product had an average SPF of 31.1 when tested to the sunscreen standard on 10 people with different skin types. However, this testing was done in 2001, so we decided to commission our own tests at the same laboratory.

Ginette also complained to the Cancer Society. The society contacted the manufacturer, Baxter Laboratories in Australia, which said that their monitoring showed that all batches of the sunscreen met the specifications for active ingredients and for stability. The society did not commission an SPF test.

In December the laboratory notified us that preliminary tests indicated that the sunscreen may not meet its claims. Ms Chetwin said this was of major concern, but Consumer did not want to cause unnecessary alarm if the testing could be proved to be wrong, so it commissioned the lab to test to the full standard. Consumer received the results this week. They showed the sunscreen still did not meet its claims.

Consumer is also concerned that no test for SPF has been carried out since the product was launched in 2001. Six years is a long time to have a product on the market and not re-test its performance.

The SPF (sun protection factor) is a measure of a sunscreen’s protection against the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

The December issue of Consumer examines sunscreen claims and answers common sunscreen questions. The article is also available to members on


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