Hydro-alcoholic gels score high on content, low on labelling

Hydro-alcoholic gels score high on content, low on labelling
© Belga

At a time when hydroalcoholic gels have been selling like hot cakes, a study conducted by Test Achats on 19 sanitisers shows that, while all contained enough alcohol, only two had labelling compliant with the legislation on biocides.

The gels need to have an alcohol content of at least 60% to guarantee their effectiveness. Test Achats analysed 19 brands sold in pharmacies and department stores and found that they all respected the minimum alcohol requirement. Eleven had an alcohol content of 70% or more. Three contained 65% to 69.9% of alcohol and the remaining five had between 60% and 64.9%.

The consumer organisation also scanned the information on the gels’ labels. Three of the brands did not mention the percentage of alcohol on their packaging, while the way the alcohol content was indicated on the fourth was incomprehensible to the consumer.

Test Achats stressed that this information is not only compulsory by law, “it is also an unavoidable minimum since that’s the only way to be sure of effective protection against the virus, together with adequate friction time,” which is 30 to 60 seconds.

Another shortcoming observed by the consumer group was that “there was no way of obtaining the expiry date on the packaging of a gel” or of “finding a notification number and/or a telephone number of the anti-poison centre on the packaging of 11 different gels.”

“Finally, it was impossible to learn of the possible secondary effects from the packaging of five gels,” Test Achats found.

All this information is compulsory under the legislation on biocides, which also applies to hydroalcoholic gels.

Alerted to these violations, the federal Public Health Department declared that they were being taken very seriously. It promised that follow-up action, whether in the form of written warnings or even withdrawals from the market “would be taken soonest, based on the information provided by Test Achats.”

According to the study, 11 of the gels also had no list of ingredients. “While this is not compulsory, it’s the only way to determine whether the products contain substances that are harmful or that can cause allergic reactions,” Test Achats said, calling on the government to toughen the legislation on hydroalcoholic gels.

The consumer organisation further noted that a price cap was needed. “In November, the average market price was just 3% lower than in June, going from 40.85 euros per litre to 39.55 euros per litre,” it said. “It’s still higher than before the crisis.”

Moreover, the gels cost much more in Belgium than in neighbouring countries. “The same bottles are sold at an average price of 26.06 euros in France and 20.78 euros in the Netherlands,” Test Achats stressed.

The Brussels Times

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