Calls for stronger sunscreen standards in NZ

Sunscreen is currently classed as a cosmetic.


The Sunscreen (Product Safety Standard) Bill, pulled from yesterday’s ballot, highlights the need for better regulation and could provide an opportunity to make sunscreen testing mandatory, Consumer NZ says.

The private member’s bill was put forward by National MP Todd Muller, as skin cancer hits close to home for the Bay of Plenty man.

“Skin cancer hits close to home for me. I’ve had a number of minor skin cancers removed from my face and body and others in my wider family have had melanoma,” says Muller.

Sunscreen is currently classified as a cosmetic.

Manufacturers aren’t required to regularly test these products and the sunscreen standard is voluntary.

In Consumer NZ's 2020 sunscreen test, five of 10 products didn’t meet their SPF label claim. Two of those also failed to meet the requirements for broad-spectrum protection.

In Australia, sunscreen is subject to a mandatory standard and regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

"New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer and melanoma. Kiwi consumers should be able to buy sunscreens knowing the products have been tested and meet their SPF label claims," says Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy.

In 2019, Consumer NZ wrote to the then Minister of Health urging for priority to be given to a mandatory sunscreen standard.

"Whether progress is made through a private member’s bill or through other regulation, it’s time for action. Regulation will need to include requirements for regular testing, so manufacturers can’t rely on historical tests.”

Read the Consumer NZ sunscreen report.

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller.

Todd Muller has introduced the bill in an effort to make sure all sunscreens on the shelf meet NZ standards.

Muller says the Sunscreen Product Safety Standard Bill would require the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to recommend the setting of mandatory regulations under Section 29 of the Fair Trading Act 1986, prescribing a product safety standard for sunscreen products.

“Our sun is pretty brutal and New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer and melanoma in the world,” says Muller.

“We have a joint sunscreen standard with Australia, which prescribes product tests and labelling requirements, but both countries take different approaches to apply this.

“The standard is mandatory in Australia but voluntary in New Zealand, meaning anyone can make a sunscreen and sell it here without having to test that it actually provides the protection claimed.

“New Zealanders need to have confidence in the SPF claims made by sunscreen manufacturers. Voluntary compliance with the standard is simply not good enough.”

Muller says the government’s consultation process ended in April 2019 and is only about a new regulatory regime.

He says passing this legislation would mean we could have standards in place in time for next summer.

“It is absolutely critical that my young family and our wider community have complete confidence in the sunscreens they are using.

“I urge all MPs to take sunscreen and the health of our skin seriously and vote for my law change.”

Read there Sunscreen (Product Safety Standard) Bill here.

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