Despite complaints from a Canterbury mother that a Cancer Society sunscreen led to her son getting second-degree burns, the society says has it has no plans to change its product.
And the Ministry of Health says it has no plans to change the rules regulating sunscreens to bring them in line with those that apply in Australia.
Jo Pattie said seven-year-old Angus was burned after three hours in the sun. Before going out he had applied Cancer Society SPF30 sunscreen. It was then reapplied after an hour in the sun.
But Cancer Society chief executive Dalton Kelly says his organisation sells hundreds of thousands of tubes of sunscreen every year. Its product has 40% of the New Zealand market and complies with the Australian-New Zealand Standard for sunscreens which is compulsory in Australia but not here.
Mr Kelly says its product is manufactured in Australia and is the same product sold by the Australian Cancer Council which has 50% of the Australian sunscreen market.
Three pharmacies contacted by Petone Herald say they do not stock Cancer Society sunscreens.
Petone Pharmacy pharmacist Graham Carter says Cancer Society sunscreens are “just another product”. “There are lots of sunscreens out there. We can’t stock them all.”
Eastbourne Pharmacy locum pharmacist Ross Howarth says the Eastbourne pharmacy also does not stock the Cancer Society product. “I had a few problems in my own pharmacy, so I stopped stocking them. I had some complaints and took them to the Cancer Society. I was dissatisfied with the response.”
A locum pharmacist at Moera Pharmacy confirmed the pharmacy did not stock Cancer Society sunscreens.
However, Mr Kelly says the Cancer Society focuses on supermarket sales and few pharmacies stock the product.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Stephen Palmer says he has not received any complaints about sunscreens since he started in the job in 1993.
Consumer New Zealand spokesman David Knowles says it has had no complaints about Cancer Society sunscreens. But when it last tested sunscreens in 2008, two of the three sunscreens that failed to meet manufacturers’ claims were from the Cancer Society.
Mr Knowles says Consumer New Zealand would like the Australian-New Zealand standard to be mandatory here. “We find it amazing it’s not.”
He says sunscreens should be classified as a therapeutic product - as they are in Australia - rather than as a cosmetic, as people use sunscreens for protection from the sun, rather than to enhance their appearance.
However, Ministry of Health spokesman Kevin McCarthy says sunscreens are classified as cosmetics because a cosmetic is defined as any substance used for the purpose of beautifying, improving, protecting, altering or cleansing the hair, skin or complexion of human beings.
He says sunscreens are in the group standard for cosmetics, which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“If a consumer believes a product (including a cosmetic) is not fit for the purpose for which it is sold, under the Consumer Guarantees Act the individual should complain about the product to the retailer and to the manufacturer of the product.”
Mr McCarthy says the ministry is not advocating for a change in the classification of sunscreens.