Need to know
- CHOICE first reported on the hand sanitiser labelling issue in June, when testing revealed that a product labelled 75% alcohol had only 23%
- Further testing found another mislabelled product that had 52% instead of the listed 75% alcohol. With other products, it wasn’t clear how much alcohol they contained, if any
- The new labelling standard calls for consistent labelling that makes clear how much alcohol a hand sanitiser product contains
New hand sanitiser labelling regulations announced today represent a major win for the health and safety of all Australians.
The new standard is also the culmination of months of coordinated effort by consumers far and wide to get this regulation adopted.
What's in the new standard?
The new standard will mean that hand sanitiser that contains alcohol as the primary active ingredient must show the amount of alcohol as a percentage, by volume per volume (v/v) in a manner that is prominent and clearly legible, either in the list of ingredients or elsewhere on the container. A list of warnings about the product's appropriate use will also need to be included.
The new standard also means that if the supplier makes a claim intended to promote the product – for example, that it "kills 99.99% of germs" – then they may be required to give the regulator information to support the claim.
Companies will have 180 days from today to act on the new labelling standard.
Your help in getting this standard
CHOICE first reported on the hand sanitiser labelling issue in June, when we commissioned testing on a hand sanitiser product sold by Mosaic Brands that was labelled 75% alcohol. The test revealed it contained just 23%.
That investigation was made possible by a tipoff from CHOICE supporter Kathy Rice, who sent in the sample because she had doubts about its effectiveness.
We followed up with two more rounds of testing at the National Measurement Institute – testing that would not have been possible without the generous donations of CHOICE supporters, who gave a total of $13,172, or an average of $42 per person.
Many of the brands we tested were spotted by consumers who'd bought them and weren't sure they were correctly labelled.
We found another dud in our follow-up testing – a bottle of White Knight labelled 75% alcohol. It had just 52%, falling short of the recommended 60% to protect against COVID-19.
Many of the brands we tested were spotted by consumers who'd bought them and weren't sure they were correctly labelled
We also launched a petition calling for legislative action to protect consumers against unclear and inconsistent hand sanitiser labelling – and received 22,626 signatures.
This consumer win was a team effort from start to finish, and we thank the many members and consumers who took part.
As Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, who has responsibility for the Australian Consumer Law, told CHOICE earlier this week, "the new standard will require hand sanitiser products to disclose alcohol content on product packaging and include safety warnings".
How we won better hand sanitiser labelling
Government announces new label standards
The government announces new hand sanitiser labelling standards to help make it easier for Australians to choose products that are effective against COVID-19.
White Knight sanitiser fails lab test
More test results reveal White Knight hand sanitiser does not contain the minimum 60% alcohol required. CHOICE lodges a complaint to the ACCC about White Knight, and over 22,000 people join the campaign.
CHOICE campaigns for better labelling
CHOICE launches a campaign to call for better labelling on hand sanitisers, inviting supporters to sign the petition.
Donations lead to more testing
Further testing reveals all products in our test contain more than 60% alcohol, the minimum amount recommended to be effective against COVID-19. Thanks to donations, more testing is commissioned.
Further testing plus public complaints
CHOICE commissions testing of more hand sanitiser samples and invites donations to help cover the costs. The ACCC and TGA receive public complaints about testing failures and alcohol-free hand sanitisers.
Mosaic Brands sanitiser fails lab test
CHOICE publishes results of lab tests which reveal the Air Clean hand sanitiser sold by Mosaic Brands contains just 23% alcohol – despite its label claiming it contains 70% alcohol.
Tip-off leads to independent testing
CHOICE receives a tip-off from a Mosaic Brands customer who suspected that their hand sanitiser did not contain as much alcohol as it should. CHOICE arranges independent testing of the sample.
Products not delivered to customers
CHOICE reveals huge numbers of complaints from customers who succumbed to the marketing tactics employed by companies early in the pandemic but were left waiting for their products.
Companies engage in panic marketing
CHOICE calls attention to panic marketing tactics by retailer Mosaic Brands, who used the pandemic to urge customers to buy their hand sanitiser, and makes a public complaint to the ACCC.
People power wins the day
"This is a win for people power," says CHOICE senior campaigner Dean Price.
"Australians asked for commonsense regulation of an essential product. With CHOICE, Australians have demanded better and Minister Sukkar and the ACCC have listened. Hand sanitisers will be safer thanks to over 22,000 Australians demanding better."
The regulations call for clear labelling, allowing consumers to pick products with at least 60% alcohol.
Hand sanitisers will be safer thanks to over 22,000 Australians demanding betterCHOICE senior campaigner Dean Price
"This new standard will deliver what CHOICE has been asking for – simple labels to help people find a product that protects them and their family," Price says.
"The 22,626 people who joined up to our campaign will be pleased that the minister has listened and will deliver this sensible change to labels."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.