Consumer NZ suggests classification and testing can be improved for sunscreen

By Andrew MCDOUGALL contact

- Last updated on GMT

Consumer NZ suggests classification and testing can be improved for sunscreen

Related tags: Sunscreen

Independent investigation unit Consumer NZ suggests that classing sunscreens as a therapeutic product, as they are in Australia, and ensuring they meet the Australian-New Zealand standard should be a priority to make the system clearer in New Zealand.

In Europe and in New Zealand sunscreens are classified and regulated as cosmetics whereas in Canada and the USA they are regulated as ‘drug products’.

In Australia, sunscreens fall into two categories: ‘therapeutic sunscreens’ (or primary sunscreens) and ‘cosmetic sunscreens’ (products that contain sunscreening agents but whose primary purpose is something other than sunscreening).

In Australia, cosmetic sunscreens must comply with the relevant sections of the Australia and New Zealand Standard, whereas in New Zealand, while companies are encouraged to sell sunscreens that comply with the Standard, products that meet standards in the EU or US are permitted.

While not directly calling product safety into question or singling out any particular brands or examples, the not-for-profit organisation believes further clarity should be provided, and that a different classification in New Zealand would improve the situation.

“Sunscreens sold here may comply with any of several different standards – or with none at all. This is confusing for consumers. The Government needs to urgently make sunscreens a regulated therapeutic product,”​ says Consumer NZ.

Annual testing suggestion

The not-for-profit organisation says it conducts regular tests on a number of consumer goods including sunscreens and that it is concerned at the variability of results produced at sunscreen testing labs: calling for annual testing of sunscreen products and auditing of labs, again to ensure consistent safety.

The firm tested a range of sunscreens, and found that 8 products failed either the SPF or broad-spectrum tests; although Consumer NZ CEO Sue Chetwin said most of the affected companies were able to produce evidence to Consumer’s satisfaction that their sunscreens did meet their claims.

“What it highlighted was major issues in sunscreen testing. For consumers to have faith in sunscreen products, health authorities need to deal with this issue. We’d like to see annual tests of products and annual auditing of test labs,”​ she said.

Dermatest, which carried out Consumer’s testing, said it wasn’t surprised by the findings; and that variability can occur between lab batches used for determining SPF, especially for products containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, where the active ingredients might not be dispersed consistently throughout the product.

The lab said the grade of zinc could change over time, which could also affect the SPF and broad spectrum figures.

Consumer NZ believes that even though there is no requirement for regular testing, this should be put in place to ensure products meet their label claims.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Oceania

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