Misleading alcohol claims on hand sanitisers sold online, investigation finds

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Which? scientists tested 18 products available at high street retailers, supermarkets and online marketplaces. Photo: PA
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By Jamie Harris, PA Science Technology Reporter

A number of hand sanitisers have been found containing less alcohol than described via online marketplaces which could leave people unprotected against coronavirus, an investigation by the consumer magazine Which? has found.

The worst offending product was identified as the Klenzy Hand Sanitizing Gel, available for sale on eBay, claiming to have a 75 per cent alcohol content but actually containing just 10 per cent, according to tests by the consumer group.

Hand sanitisers need an alcohol content of between 60 per cent and 90 per cent to be deemed effective against Covid-19. Sanitisers normally use ethanol, isopropanol or a mixture of the two.

Which? scientists tested 18 products available at high street retailers, supermarkets and online marketplaces.

Three bought from online marketplaces eBay and Etsy failed to show the same alcohol levels claimed on the product listing page or the packaging.

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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

The VaidaMakeup Hand Sanitiser Gel sold on Etsy was found to have 33 per cent instead of the 70 per cent mentioned, while the Hansan Antibacterial Hand Sanitiser on eBay came out as 35 per cent instead of 70 per cent.

eBay removed both product listings and banned the sellers from selling hand sanitiser on the site again, while the seller on Etsy said it had removed the listing and contacted all customers to warn them.

“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,” Etsy said in a statement.

Seven products from Amazon Marketplace were also among the investigation but passed with the correct stated and required levels of alcohol content.

All other hand sanitisers purchased from high street retailers and supermarkets also matched their stated claims.

“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,” said Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services.

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“The good news is that our research shows that if you buy hand sanitiser from a known and trusted brand, it increases the chances of it doing what you need it to, but you could face more of a lottery if you are buying from lesser-known sellers on online marketplaces.”

Which? said it approached the sellers of the Hansan and Klenzy products for comment but did not receive a response.

It was unable to find contact details for any manufacturers.

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