Popular activewear brand Lorna Jane has been fined more than $42,000 for alleged advertising breaches in relation to Covid-19 and "anti-virus activewear".
Lorna Jane allegedly claimed on its website that its "anti-virus activewear" prevents and protects against infectious diseases, implying it is effective against Covid-19.
Now, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) issued the Brisbane clothing company with three infringement notices totaling A$39,960 ($42,664).
"The TGA alleges that Lorna Jane represented its 'anti-virus activewear' for therapeutic use and therefore believes that it is a therapeutic good within the meaning of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989. Therapeutic goods, including advertising, are subject to the regulations administered by the TGA," the TGA said in a statement.
"The advertisement referred to therapeutic goods that were not included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). This is required before they can be lawfully supplied or advertised in Australia."
Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health, Professor John Skerritt, said that kind of advertising could have negative impacts within the community.
"This kind of advertising could have detrimental consequences for the Australian community, creating a false sense of security and leading people to be less vigilant about hygiene and social distancing," he said.
The company was previously criticised by the professional body representing GPs after claiming its clothes had been sprayed with an exclusive, light, permanent mist called LJ Shield, which "breaks through the membrane shell of any toxic diseases, not only killing that microbe but preventing it from multiplying into any more".
The company said LJ Shield technology was a "chemical-free shield that prevents and protects against odour causing bacteria, mould and infectious disease".
"It is applied as a water-based, non-toxic mist and permanently adheres to our garments.
"Any bacteria that comes into contact with the fabric is terminated when it comes in touch with the LJ Shield particles."
A spokesman told news.com.au Lorna Jane began developing new practices two years ago to "solve the issues around germs/contamination" for their customers.
"In a sense you could be touching somebody's armpit or groin and with our garments worn so close to the body we knew we had to do something better."
The company said the technology, which comes from Taiwanese company Fuse Biotech, has also been used in gyms in the US to spray on hard surfaces. The company said it wasn't trying to claim the clothing was a cure for Covid-19.
"We are not saying LJ Shield will stop you coming into contact with bacteria, we are saying LJ Shield is an added protection like hand sanitiser but for the clothes you wear," the spokesman told news.com.au.
They said the technology was in final stages of being granted FDA approval and was undergoing quality testing by local authorities.
"With everything that is transpiring with Covid we deemed it necessary to speed up the release of this technology to our customers, knowing it has already been tested and proven globally and continue to work on getting it tested locally also."
But the claims have been dismissed by the president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, who said Lorna Jane was engaging in "wishful thinking".
"The latest active wear is great for a workout but it won't keep you safe from bacteria or viruses, including the Covid-19 virus," Dr Harry Nespolon said.
"If activewear was the answer I would be handing this clothing out to my patients every day, but I don't think that will be happening.
"We have strict laws concerning therapeutic claims for good reason – they can cause real harm," Nespolon said.
"This is how former celebrity chef and prominent anti-vaxxer Pete Evans got himself into such trouble earlier this year."
Earlier this year, Evans was fined A$25,000 ($26,691) by the TGA for promoting a A$15,000 ($16,015) light machine on social media. Evans had claimed the machine could be used to treat "Wuhan coronavirus".
"Marketing a product as protecting people from disease can lull some into a false sense of security," Nespolon said.
"They may believe they are safe from infection and be less likely to wash their hands regularly, socially distance or wear a mask where distancing is impractical.
"When it comes to protecting yourself from viruses and bacteria there is no magical solution and a 'lightweight mist' capable of 'breaking through the membrane shell of any toxic diseases' is nothing but wishful thinking."
He said he wouldn't advise his patients to use this "exclusive technology".
"Instead, stick to the basics. You can help protect yourself and others from the Covid-19 virus by regularly washing your hands, keeping them away from your nose and mouth, socially distancing and wearing a mask where distancing is impractical.
"Now more than ever people need to listen to the medical experts including your GP, not clothing companies open to exploit a global pandemic to boost sales."
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is looking into activewear brand's claims.