CHOICE Director of Reviews and Testing Matt Steen
A CHOICE investigation of 29 retail hand sanitisers has found no cause for concern, revealing that all the products tested - each of them sourced from a major retailer - contained the minimum amount of alcohol recommended by authorities.
The consumer advocate commissioned broader testing after its July investigation into retailer Mosaic Brands found a sanitiser sample contained only 23% alcohol, well below the level required to protect against viruses such as COVID-19.
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"After our investigation into Mosaic Brands' sanitiser product had such a shocking result, we urgently commissioned broader testing of the common brands you'd find in your local supermarket," says Matt Steen, Director of Reviews and Testing at CHOICE.
"Thankfully, we can trust the most common brands available in your local supermarket."
However, the consumer advocate says there are still major gaps in the regulation and quality control of sanitiser products and is calling for community support to expand its testing.
"COVID-19 sparked a huge expansion of retailers and manufacturers offering sanitiser products. More producers is a positive for keeping cost down and strong supply, but makes quality control and regulation even more challenging," says Steen.
"As a nonprofit organisation, CHOICE is doing everything we can to make sure you're receiving safe and effective products during the COVID-19 pandemic. We need your help to expand our testing and make sure we can cover as much of the market as possible. There is no regulator or government body testing to make sure these products are safe and effective, so CHOICE needs your help to fill this vital role."
Australians can help fund independent testing and expand this investigation here: www.choice.com.au/fundthistest
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How we test hand sanitiser
CHOICE commissioned testing from the National Measurement Institute (NMI) labs to confirm the alcohol content of 29 retail hand sanitisers.
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.
In order to be effective a hand sanitiser must contain between 60% and 95% 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 80% ethanol or 75% isopropyl alcohol.