Building trust: NZ consumer watchdog calls for sunscreens to be regulated as therapeutic products

By Amanda Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

 Consumer NZ urge government to regulate sunscreen as therapeutic products. [Getty Images]
Consumer NZ urge government to regulate sunscreen as therapeutic products. [Getty Images]

Related tags: Sunscreen, Sun care, New zealand, Regulation

Watchdog group Consumer NZ says sunscreens should be regulated as therapeutic products after three products failed testing for the second year in a row.

For a second year running, three sunscreens from Banana Boat, Sukin, and Natural Instinct failed to meet label claims, according to an independent test commissioned by the non-profit consumer group.

“At Consumer NZ, we’ve been testing sunscreens for over a decade and finding that quite a few don’t meet their label claims… That’s just not giving consumers the information they need to make an informed decision and buy products they can trust,”​ said Belinda Castles, research writer at Consumer NZ.

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Asia​, Castles emphasised that there was an urgent need to put in place sunscreen regulation.

“In New Zealand, we have extremely high rates of skin cancer and melanoma – some of the highest in the world and that's why this regulation is really important.”

According to the Cancer Society of New Zealand, skin cancer, including melanoma, is New Zealand's most common cancer. It is estimated that skin cancers account for 80% of all new cancers each year.

A bill was recently drawn up to regulate sunscreens under the Fair-Trading Act and make it mandatory for products to meet the Australian and New Zealand standard.

It would mandate that all sunscreens sold in New Zealand would have to meet the SPF levels claimed on the packaging.

The Sunscreen Product Safety Standard Bill passed its second reading in November. It would have to be debated by the House before going through its third reading.

While Consumer NZ has supported this bill, the group would like to see regulations taken a step further.

“This is a great interim measure, but our preference is for sunscreens to be regulated as a therapeutic product like it is in Australia. This means companies wouldn’t be required to regularly test their products. They could do a one-off test and that would be it. Whereas we want manufacturers to be tested regularly to make sure that product is still meeting level claims,” ​said Castles.

This would ensure that SPF claims could hold up against changes in formulation or ingredient suppliers, she added.

The New Zealand government is currently working on a new regulatory regime to regulate therapeutic products in the country, which will replace the Medicines Act 1981.

The group believes this would be hugely beneficial for the market, said Castles.

“We often get contacted by smaller companies that ask about testing and requirements. With regulation, you can be certain that you have to do X, Y and Z. In turn, consumers would be in a position of buying products that meet the claims. That's a plus because it can provide trust within the whole industry.”

In April 2019, Consumer NZ wrote a submission to lobby the inclusion of sunscreens to be classified as a therapeutic good.

However, to pass this bill would take time, especially as combating the COVID-19 pandemic would take precedence.

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