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Sunscreen producer will meet NZ standard for SPF testing

19 February 2018

Sunscreen producer Johnson & Johnson (New Zealand) Limited (JJNZ) has undertaken to the Commerce Commission to only sell sunscreen products which meet the joint Australian/New Zealand standard.

The Commission opened an investigation following a complaint from Consumer New Zealand. Consumer NZ alleged that it had tested the sun protection factor (SPF) value of one of JJNZ’s Neutrogena-range products, Sensitive Skin SPF60+, and found that the SPF protection was significantly less than the label claimed.

Consumer NZ had tested the product against the Australian/NZ Standard, which is mandatory in Australia but voluntary in New Zealand, where multiple standards are recognised and can be legally used for SPF ratings.

The Commission obtained JJNZ’s own testing results. JJNZ had tested against the American Federal Drug Administration (FDA) standard, and had obtained an SPF rating of 60+.

The Commission undertook independent testing of the Sensitive Skin SPF60+ product, and another Neutrogena product, Pure & Free Baby SPF60+. The two products had near-identical formulations. The Commission conducted tests under both the Australian/NZ Standard and the American FDA standard. The testing showed significantly lower SPF performance than that represented by JJNZ.

The variability of testing methods and the results produced by the two methods meant that the Commission investigation was not conclusive as to the actual SPF ratings of the products.

To resolve the disputed issues, JJNZ has signed court enforceable undertakings ensuring that all JJNZ sunscreen products will now meet the joint Australian/New Zealand standard. This brings JJNZ’s testing of SPF products into line with other major New Zealand sunscreen sellers, where it is the norm to test against the non-mandatory Australian/New Zealand standard.

A copy of the enforceable undertakings is available on our website.

A picture of the two Neutrogena products is available here. JJNZ ceased to supply them in September 2016.

Background

In New Zealand, sunscreens are classified as cosmetics under the Medicines Act 1981 and do not require the Minister of Health’s consent for distribution.

To ensure SPF claims are able to be substantiated all sunscreen must be tested and compliant with a globally recognised sunscreen standard. Many sunscreens in New Zealand use the Australian/NZ Standard (AS/NZ 2604:2012), which is mandatory in Australia. This standard is voluntary in New Zealand where multiple standards are recognised and can be legally used for SPF ratings.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry of Health are responsible for determining the appropriate standard.  While the Commission is not responsible for standard setting, we can take legal action where we see misleading or deceptive claims about claimed performance or compliance with a standard.