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Hand sanitiser sold by major retailer fails spot-check test: CHOICE

Consumer advocate issues sanitiser safety warning and calls for community tips.

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CHOICE Director of Reviews and Testing Matthew Steen holding the withdrawn product

A sample of hand sanitiser from retailer Mosaic Brands has failed in a CHOICE commissioned lab test following a community tip off.

"'AIR Clean Instant Hand Sanitizer' sold by Mosaic Brands has been withdrawn from sale. This is following a CHOICE investigation and an independent lab test that found a sample of the product had an alcohol content of only 23% - well below the amount of alcohol required to be effective," says Erin Turner, Director of Campaigns at CHOICE.

CHOICE commissioned the test after receiving multiple community tip offs concerned with the quality of the Mosaic-sold products.

"In the COVID-19 context, ineffective sanitiser is a major public health risk. In order to be effective, a hand sanitiser must have enough alcohol. It's very worrying that CHOICE has found a hand sanitiser sample with only 23% alcohol, when it should have between 60 and 80%, depending on the formula."

"As a result of our spot-check on this Mosaic sample, CHOICE is now conducting further testing of sanitiser available across Australia. We have also referred Mosaic to the regulators to determine if this is a one-off issue with a small batch or something more concerning. We welcome actions from Mosaic to withdraw the products from sale and conduct further testing themselves - this is the responsible course of action given the risks involved." 

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Available as an embeddable infographic here: https://infogram.com/sanitiser-test-result-1h8n6mxjpn8m4xo?live

Sanitiser Safety Warning

"There are steps you can take if you're worried about whether your hand sanitiser is effective. Always use soap and water where you can and avoid sanitiser that feels sticky, as this is a sign that the product may not have enough alcohol in its formula," says Ms Turner.

Safe sanitising tips

1. Preference soap and water

Hand sanitiser shouldn't be your first choice - if you have access to soap and water it will be the most effective way to eliminate germs, provided you follow guidelines for effective handwashing.

2. Is it sticky?

Hand sanitiser must typically contain between 60 and 80% alcohol (depending on type) to be effective. If you place sanitiser in your hands and it has a sticky texture and doesn't evaporate as you rub – you may have a dodgy sanitiser. A sticky texture indicates that the formula has too much gel substance and not enough alcohol.

3. Tell someone

If you're worried about your sanitiser you should tell the retailer. Unhappy with the response? CHOICE wants to hear from you.

Also available as an image and embeddable infographic: https://infogram.com/safe-sanitising-tips-1hxr4z8m1rve4yo?live

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"It's frustrating that essential products can have a question mark over their safety. Products can sit on shelves for months or years before problems are identified. If you're unsure about the quality of essentials during COVID-19, please tell us at CHOICE and we'll fight for fast action. Business as usual can't be accepted when it comes to public safety during this pandemic," says Ms Turner.

"This investigation was only possible because of the CHOICE community," says Ms Turner. 

CHOICE supporter Kathy Rice suspected something was wrong with the hand sanitiser sold to her by Mosaic and when she received a lacklustre response from the company, provided her batch to CHOICE. CHOICE received multiple complaints in regards to sanitiser products from this retailer.

Read Kathy's full experience here: choice.com.au/MosaicSanitiser

"If a customer comes to you with valid concerns about your product, especially a product essential to public health in the midst of a pandemic, you should take them seriously," says Ms Turner.

"We don't want the community to be unnecessarily alarmed, but given the poor response Kathy received and a number of community members contacting us, we need expectations, standards and communication lifted across the board from all retailers selling products related to public health. With our upcoming tests, all retailers selling these products are on notice."

Media contact: Jonathan Brown, media@choice.com.au, 0430 172 669

Further materials available on Dropbox: https://shwca.se/MosaicSanitiser 

Background: 

Mosaic is the company behind fashion retailers Katies, Rockmans, Rivers and Noni B and was earlier this year criticised by the consumer advocate for engaging in COVID-19 panic marketing and later failing to deliver on their promises.

How we test hand sanitiser 

CHOICE commissioned testing from the National Measurement Institute (NMI) labs to confirm the alcohol content in a sample of the Mosaic issued hand sanitiser. The label claimed 70% ethyl alcohol.

The test used gas chromatography to determine how much alcohol was in the sample, based on the AOAC Official Method 972.11 and 972.10. An excerpt of the method is below:

A 1.0g test portion of sample is extracted with 250 mL of Milli-Q water. An aliquot of the water extract is filtered with a 0.45 um filter into a GC vial, internal standard is added and this solution is analysed by Gas Chromatography with Flame Ionisation Detection (GC-FID). A 1.0g of the sample is dissolved in a 250mL of Milli-Q water in a volumetric flask and series of dilutions ranging from 1:5000 to 1:10000 with Milli-Q water before transferring to the GC vials. Samples are run against a multipoint calibration curve. Sample extracts are diluted so that instrument response falls in the calibration range.

CHOICE has raised a complaint with the ACCC and notified the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) of the issue. 

In order to be effective a hand sanitiser must contain between 60% and 80% alcohol, depending on the type used. If a sanitiser product claims to be made using the World Health Organisation (WHO) formula then it must contain at least 80% ethanol or 75% isopropyl alcohol.