Hand sanitisers ‘make misleading claims’ and leave coronavirus risk

Hand sanitisers sold on popular online marketplaces make misleading claims about alcohol content and risk leaving consumers unprotected against coronavirus because they do not contain recommended levels, a watchdog has claimed.

Some hand sanitisers do not contain the same amount of alcohol as claimed on the bottle.
Some hand sanitisers do not contain the same amount of alcohol as claimed on the bottle.

Which? found that the worst offending hand sanitiser had an alcohol content of just 10 per cent, a fraction of the 75 per cent claimed – leaving people using it particularly exposed to bacteria and viruses.

For hand sanitiser to be effective at killing the COVID-19 virus, it should have 60 to 90 per cent alcohol content. In Which?’s latest research, scientists put a range of 18 products available at high street retailers, supermarkets and online marketplaces to the test.

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Three hand sanitisers bought from online marketplaces eBay and Etsy did not contain the percentage of alcohol that was claimed on either the product listing page or the packaging, and fell well short of the recommended levels for killing off viruses.

Klenzy Hand Sanitizing Gel, which was available for sale on eBay, claimed to have 75 per cent alcohol content, but Which? tests revealed it contained just 10 per cent.

The VaidaMakeup Hand Sanitiser Gel on Etsy, and Hansan Antibacterial Hand Sanitiser on eBay, were also misleading. Both contained around half of the 70 per cent alcohol levels that were claimed.

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After Which? contacted eBay it said it had removed both the product listings and that the sellers would no longer be permitted to sell hand sanitiser on the site.

The seller on Etsy told Which? that it had removed the listing and contacted all customers to warn them of the lower alcohol content in the sanitiser and to offer a full refund.

Which? has shared its findings with the Office for Product Safety and Standards for further investigation.

In the UK, hand gels should comply with EU Biocides Regulation 528/2012. They should be able to prove that the product matches the claims, so if a product makes a certain claim, such as it kills 99.9 per cent of bacteria, then it should fulfill that claim. However, meeting claims on alcohol content isn’t required to comply with the regulation.

All of the hand sanitisers Which? tested from high street retailers and supermarkets, including Boots, Superdrug, Tesco, Waitrose and Wilko, passed Which?’s tests and had appropriate levels of alcohol content to kill viruses and bacteria – matching their stated claims.

A recent Which? survey found that seven in 10 people polled use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “It’s extremely concerning that hand sanitisers readily available on online marketplaces eBay and Etsy make misleading claims about alcohol content and could leave consumers unwittingly exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

A spokesman for eBay said: “The two listings flagged by Which? have been removed, and we’ve taken the appropriate action on the sellers, who will no longer be permitted to sell hand sanitiser on eBay.”

A spokesman for Etsy said: “Etsy is pleased the seller has removed the item from sale. We don't have final control over sellers' items but do ask they act with integrity as was the case here by them taking action once the issue was brought to their attention.”

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