A consumer watchdog is calling for better regulation of sunscreens after 10 brands failed to live up to efficacy claims.
Consumer NZ says its latest test of sunscreens highlights how classifying sunscreens as cosmetics is not protecting consumers and needs to change.
Forecasters predict much of the country is set to swelter this weekend – the first of the summer. New Zealand's melanoma cancer rates are among the world's worst.
Consumer chief executive Sue Chetwin said only nine out of the 19 products tested met their SPF label claims and the requirements for broad-spectrum protection.
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"As a result of our test two 'natural' sunscreens, which only provided low protection, and a third product, which didn't meet its high protection or broad spectrum claims, have been removed from sale."
Consumer's tests also found six other products, including big brands, didn't meet the SPF claimed on the label. However, Chetwin said most of the affected companies were able to produce lab results showing the products had been tested and met their label claims.
The exceptions were the Cancer Society and Sungard. The Cancer Society Everyday SPF50+ and Sungard Moisturising Sunscreen SPF50+ found they had an SPF of 40 and 45 respectively. Chetwin said the sunscreens still provide high protection but not the very high protection indicated by the SPF50+ label claim.
This isn't the first time Consumer NZ has found differences between its test results and the manufacturers'. Consumer organisations in Australia, the US and the UK have also reported similar findings.
"Companies don't have to regularly test their products to ensure they still meet SPF claims, even if an ingredient supply changes, and some companies may go for years without retesting. Our testing has also highlighted the lack of consistency between labs even when products are tested the same way," Chetwin said.
Another concern was that sunscreens could be sold in New Zealand without being tested because the sunscreen standard was voluntary.
Chetwin said that in a country with one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world, it was time the Government made the Australia and New Zealand standard mandatory.