Manufacturers could be misleading consumers over preservatives, report

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chemistry

Highlighting the absence of certain preservatives in a product when the formulation contains others is misleading to the consumer, according to France’s body for competition and fraud control (DGCCRF).

The finding is part of a survey on cosmetic products claiming organic or natural status that profess to be either preservative free or not to contain certain preservative compounds.

DGCCRF, in partnership with the French authority on the safety of health products (Affsaps), investigated the chemical makeup of products, and how this compared to their labels, as well as investigating the levels of microbial contamination.

Out of 28 products, 12 advertised themselves as preservative free, and the other 16 as free from parabens and/or phenoxyethanol. The preservatives used in the latter group were the salts of benzoic or sorbic acid, and dehydroacetic acid.

Misleading labels

Regarding this practice, the DGCCRF stated that flagging up the absence of certain preservatives when the product contains others is a way of voluntarily giving incomplete information to the consumer.

This could be seen as misleading the consumer about the actual formulation of the product, it claimed.

In addition, chemical analysis of the products flagged up a number of products that contained traces of preserving compounds that were not marked on the label.

Six of the products that claimed to be free from parabens and/or phenoxyethanol were found to contain traces of methylparaben at concentrations of between 0.01 and 0.04 per cent.

And one of the ‘preservative free’ products contained traces of benzoic or sorbic acid salts.

Traces of preservatives from ingredients

However, the chemicals were in very low concentrations, and the DGCCRF concluded that they were probably the result of using preservative-containing ingredients and had not been added to preserve the final product.

On this count the body did not believe manufacturers were wilfully trying to mislead their consumers.

In general, the microbiological contamination of the products was found to be satisfactory.

However, one product was removed from the market due to contamination by the bacteria Pseudomonas putida​. A further product was deemed to have a low protection level and be susceptible to contamination during its life cycle.

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