Research for infection protection

Original or fake? How to identify ineffective or counterfeit disinfectants

At the beginning of the global coronavirus pandemic, the demand for disinfectants skyrocketed. Within a few days, many products for hand and surface disinfection were sold out. The high demand led to prices also rising rapidly in some quarters. Along with many new manufacturers, this situation also attracted a few unscrupulous suppliers. For consumers, a dubious product cannot always be identified at first glance, so we have put together the following guide to classify new products.

Pay attention to the labels for user safety

Disinfectants are subject to strict regulatory requirements, as their use is a health-related topic. Due to their high alcohol content, disinfectants are usually flammable liquids. An appropriate label is therefore highly relevant for safety. 

The legal marketing of disinfectant products is difficult for those outside the field, as there are comprehensive labelling requirements under the chemicals legislation. These labelling requirements apply not only to the label itself, but also to all online offers. 

Appropriate signal words, hazard and safety information as well as hazard pictograms must be present to place the product on the market. All statements relevant to user safety are found in safety statements in written form.

An (online) offer that does not include any safety-related instructions should therefore be regarded with caution. 

Example of hazard pictograms for user safety
Example of hazard pictograms for user safety

Compare the prices of similar products

In many cases demand sets the price. On many online platforms, prices for disinfectants and medical masks skyrocketed at the beginning of the pandemic. Genuine retailers are guided in setting prices for medical devices not only by high demand but also by the need to protect public health. This ensures that price stability will remain unchanged compared to the time before the coronavirus pandemic.

Less genuine suppliers may even be liable to prosecution as a result of extreme pricing during an exceptional international situation. Price gouging occurs when the offered product and the price being asked for it are completely disproportionate, exploiting the plight of those affected. Price gouging may also violate competition and consumer law if it takes the form of an aggressive business act and may even be a criminal offence. If exorbitant prices are demanded on platforms such as Amazon or eBay, there is also the danger of account lockouts because these platforms are now responding vigorously to increased prices for items needed to protect against coronavirus and in doing so may block genuine suppliers.

Take care with extravagant promises for counterfeit or ineffective disinfectants

In the context of the global pandemic, the International Criminal Police Organization Interpol has also warned against counterfeit medications and medical devices such as single-use masks, vaccines, COVID-19 test kits, malaria medications and hand disinfectants. Interpol calls for scepticism regarding advertising claims that appear unrealistic. If a product appears too good to be true, caution is advised. If you find a hand disinfectant on the website of a third-party supplier, you should pay particular attention to the following key data:

  • Missing information about possible side effects
  • Contradictory or missing labels
  • Wildly differing price
  • Different active substances or a different concentration of the active substances
  • Spelling mistakes on the label, the packaging or the instructions for use
  • No data protection statement

Check the website of the manufacturer and compare the information available there with that provided by the supplier. If the information does not match, you should not make the purchase and, if necessary, inform the relevant authorities.