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Cancer Society Calls Out Consumer NZ on Sunscreen Testing

29 January 2019

- Mutually agreed approach only fair and honest way to provide confidence

The Cancer Society has confirmed it is in dispute with Consumer NZ over conflicting results on the SPF rating of one of its most important sunscreen products - SPF 50+ Kids Pure sunscreen.

In an effort to resolve the matter, the Cancer Society asked Consumer NZ to join it in having the product tested in a mutually agreed laboratory totally independent of either organisation.

Consumer NZ declined, saying an additional test on the Cancer Society's product would be unfair to other companies.

Cancer Society CEO Mike Kernaghan says “fairness” is at the very heart of the re-testing proposal as an independent testing regime, with an agreed methodology, is the only fair and honest way of giving consumers, and particularly those using Cancer Society products, the confidence they deserve at such a critical time of the year.

Mr Kernaghan says that as a way of supporting its position Consumer NZ is saying that, while the “ingredients” in the Society’s product is the same, the “preservatives” have changed, which is totally inaccurate.

“At this point, each of our organisations is claiming significantly different results from SPF testing on the same product.

“We are confirming that our independent testing and re-testing on the same product conducted in 2018 and 2016 shows the SPF50+ Kids Pure returned results of SPF 60 and SPF 67.6, well above the label claim (SPF 50+). On the other hand, Consumer NZ is claiming its testing shows the sunscreen was SPF 41.

“It is our strong belief that Consumer NZ’s results were compromised by the product being decanted into non-compliant containers in New Zealand and then sent to Australia for testing.

“This is important – because the bottles our sunscreens are packaged in are designed to maintain the quality and effectiveness of the sun screen as a medical product. Decanting and exposing it to light will cause degradation of the product.

“In circumstances where our organisations cannot resolve our differences, the only fair and honest thing is to have testing conducted by an unrelated, independent third-party laboratory.

“We hoped Consumer NZ would agree, as no organisation – not even Consumer NZ – has a monopoly on accuracy.”

Mr Kernaghan says in the face of disputed results the Cancer Society is not willing to sit idly by while Consumer NZ creates headlines undermining confidence in its products.

“The products that carry our brand are made in Australia where there are rigorous standards in place to ensure they meet the claims on the label, including certification by the ‘Therapeutic Goods Administration’ (TGA) - part of the Australian Government’s Department of Health.

“Our manufacturers are audited by the TGA (Australia’s version of Medsafe) regularly to ensure the production of our sunscreen complies under the medicine label.

“The Cancer Society is one of New Zealand’s most trusted organisations. We will continue to have our products independently tested to ensure that people are provided a very high-level of protection when using Cancer Society sunscreen.”

Call for regulation of sunscreens

Mr Kernaghan says that one thing the two organisations see eye-to-eye on is that sunscreen products manufactured and distributed in New Zealand should be regulated, just as they are in Australia.



Cancer Society branded sunscreens have been proven to exceed their SPF claims when used correctly. Its sunscreens are tested to the exacting laboratory standards required under the AS/NZS 2604 standard regulatory guidelines covering SPF and product stability/efficacy criteria, including water resistance and UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum.

All Cancer Society branded sunscreen formulations are independently tested and have returned results that exceed the SPF claims on their label. For example, the SPF50+ Kids Pure sunscreen most recently delivered an SPF test result of 60 (Products require an SPF60 or over to achieve the SPF50+ claim).

Dealing with consumer complaints

The Cancer Society deals with consumer complaints about the effectiveness of its products on an individual basis regardless of whether complaints go to the media. The Cancer Society has received around 60 complaints a year for the past three years.

No formal consumer complaint investigation over the past six years has found issue with the SPF label claim or overall quality of a Cancer Society product.

This season’s complaints are in keeping with previous years in number and type. Of the 49 queries this season (11 allergic reaction and 38 sunburn), seven complaints have opted to continue with a formal complaint and had their product available for testing. Of four completed investigations to date, independent lab testing detected no product issues.

While the Cancer Society can only rule out product defects through the investigation and testing, it is likely most complaints are instances of skin sensitivity or improper application.

Being sun smart

The New Zealand sun is unforgiving. New Zealanders can use Cancer Society products with confidence, but it must be applied correctly and used in conjunction with other sun smart measures. Users should never assume they are “bullet proof” in terms of sunburn simply because they have used some sunscreen.

The sun smart measures include:

• Application 35mL per average person at least 20 minutes before going outside.

• Reapply consistently and generously at least every two hours especially if swimming, sweating or rubbing off.

• Avoid peak UV level times between 10am and 4pm during summer and remember to use sunscreen in conjunction with other sun smart measures. People should refer to the label for further advice and warnings, remember to apply sunscreen even on cloudy days as UV rays will still cause skin damage.

Children under sensitive skin advice should patch test for 24 hours before full application. Patch test either inside of the wrist or back of the knee for any reaction i.e. redness or irritation. Discontinue if it continues and see medical advice. Read back of label.


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