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Consumer Calls For Cosmetic Withdrawal

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Consumer Calls For Cosmetic Withdrawal

Consumer NZ is calling for Mahu Mother and Baby Skin Care products containing a banned ingredient to be withdrawn from sale immediately.

Mahu products are marketed as natural, NZ-made and the "safest choice" for you and your baby. But Consumer has found Mahu products on sale, including a baby lotion, that list a preservative called iodopropynyl butylcarbamate (IPBC). IPBC is not allowed in moisturisers or any other "leave on" preparations for children under three years of age.

The chemical is also banned from use in body lotions and creams intended for use on a "large part of the body" and in any oral hygiene or lip care products. However, Consumer found IBPC listed as an ingredient in Mahu Stretch Mark Lotion and Mahu Nipple Cream.

IPBC is better known as a timber preservative. In its pure form, it's classified by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) as having acute oral toxicity and inhalation toxicity. It is considered safe in some cosmetics such as shampoos and deodorants in low concentrations.

IPBC has also been identified as a potential contact allergen. Despite this, Mahu products Consumer bought state "Contains no ingredients that are potentially harmful".

Mahu director Kathryn Fromont told Consumer it stopped using IPBC after restrictions on the ingredient's use were strengthened in 2008, and had asked retailers to withdraw the products. However, Consumer NZ readily found what appeared to be old stock. Fromont said the company would write to retailers again and ask them to remove products.

Consumer chief executive Sue Chetwin said the company should issue an immediate recall. "We've also raised our concerns with ERMA. Better enforcement of product standards is required to ensure consumer safety."

The problems with Mahu's products were discovered as part of our research on so-called "natural" cosmetics, published in this month's Consumer. Chetwin says there's a growing number of cosmetics claiming to be "organic" or "natural" and which are no-such thing.

"We bought 18 brands of skincare products readily available in stores, all of which made claims to be natural options. But behind the marketing hype, many had surprising ingredients," Chetwin said. "Several used the word 'organic' in their brand name but contained synthetic ingredients that wouldn't pass any rigorous organic standard."

Three products - Avalon Organics Lavender Daily Moisturiser, Giovanni Organic Hair Care LA Natural Styling Gel and Jason Pure, Natural & Organic Apricot Deodorant - are made in the US. These brands have been labelled "organic cheater-brands" by the US Organic Consumers Association which has filed a complaint with regulators alleging their products are mostly non-organic formulations.

Kiwi-made product Earths Organics Hand + Body Cream - Violet and Chamomile may contain organic manuka honey and sweet almond oil, but it also contains preservatives butyl paraben, ethyl paraben, methyl paraben, phenolyethanol and propyl paraben. Another, The Aromatherapy Company's Organic Fig and Olive Hand Balm which claims to be made with "the purity of nature" also contains synthetic substances.

Parabens are widely used in cosmetics but questions continue to be raised about the toxicity of some of these substances. Existing rules allow their use in low concentrations. Many cosmetics claim to be "paraben-free" but parabens have often been replaced in these products with other synthetic preservatives.

Only two of the 18 which claimed to be "organic" or "natural" had recognised eco accreditations. They were Dr Hauschka Rose Day Cream Light and Living Nature Refreshing Body Lotion.

Chetwin said products sold as natural or organic needed to demonstrate they lived up to their claims. Making misleading claims is an offence under the Fair Trading Act.

Consumer NZ wants a mandatory standard for "natural" cosmetic claims - one that sets out companies' obligations for ensuring claims are accurate, unambiguous and verifiable.

If you're buying "natural" cosmetics check the ingredients list carefully. Many are likely to contain synthetic chemicals.

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