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Consumer sunscreen testing vindicated

Consumer sunscreen testing vindicated

Consumer NZ said today it was pleased that as a result of its testing further improvements may be made to the sunscreen standard so that consumers can have greater confidence that sunscreens can meet their SPF claims.

Earlier this year Consumer NZ put 10 of the country's top selling sunscreens to the test, after it found a Cancer Society Trigger Spray SPF 30+ failed to meet its claim. The results of those tests showed a further Cancer Society sunscreen with an SPF 30+ claim - the Roll-on - failed as did the SunSense Ultra SPF30+. Another Cancer Society sunscreen, with insect repellent failed its Broad Spectrum claim. Consumer NZ then laid a complaint with the Commerce Commission over what it regarded were misleading claims.

The commission's investigations compared test results on several samples of each sunscreen. It found that results for the same product varied from laboratory to laboratory - and sometimes within the laboratories.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia (TGA) is responsible for the regulation of sunscreens in Australia. It has carried out its own investigations and now advises that - because of the inherent variability in testing on humans - there may be a margin of error of up to five in the results achieved under the current standard. This means that a product with an average SPF of 31 may provide SPF protection as low as 26. The products that failed Consumer's test based their claim on SPF results of between 33 and 31.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said as a result of our organisation's testing the standard was being reviewed. The TGA considers that products claiming an SPF 30+ should now have to achieve an average test result of at least 35. This would address the issue of an appropriate margin of error during testing and allow for any possible loss of efficacy on the shop shelf.

Because the Standards Review Committee for sunscreens is reviewing the standard to address both those issues, the commission said today it would take no further action. Consumer NZ said it agreed with this but it would be keeping a close eye on this review of the standard. We hope improvements will not be long in coming.

Ms Chetwin said she was pleased to hear the Cancer Society had put steps in place to address the issues identified by the TGA.

"In the meantime our advice to consumers is to make sure they check the use-by date of any sunscreen and buy from shops that have a high turnover, and are likely to replenish stocks regularly."


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