Hands cleaning a surface with spray and a cloth

‘Take cleaning products claims with a pinch of salt,’ advises food hygiene expert

Businesses looking for ‘magic solution’ risk being taken in by manufacturers’ glossy marketing.
09 July 2020 , Sarah Campbell

Aggressive marketing tactics are being used by unscrupulous manufacturers to dupe businesses into buying their cleaning products, according to the new chair of the Society of Food Hygiene and Technology.

Businesses desperate to reopen post-lockdown are looking for ways to keep their staff and customers safe, said Peter Littleton, who is also technical director at Christeyns Food Hygiene. But many claims being made by cleaning product firms, he said, are “strange in the extreme”. Littleton and his colleagues have been collecting the technical specifications for such products for analysis.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there that claims you can spray it on to a train door handle or fog it into a school and it’ll prevent the virus being a problem for up to 21 days,” he said, “that may work in a lab and indeed some of the data that we’ve seen shows that in laboratory conditions that’s absolutely fine.

“But that relies on nobody touching it, nobody cleaning it in between and, if it’s outside, nothing raining on it.”

Littleton expressed concern that “a lot of people are looking for the magic solution”. He added: “There is this desire to do things right and to have something in place which gives the business owner that sense of security.”

However, a general lack of understanding of how viruses work, combined with glossy marketing with judicious use of words such as ‘up to’ in their descriptions, puts business owners at risk of buying products that aren’t fit for purpose – and putting customers at risk of catching the coronavirus.

Littleton said that he is aware of companies that have been set up in recent months to sell such products. Others “have been hanging around on the peripheries of the industry for four or five years if not longer, [and they] see this as an opportunity”.

The products themselves are generally not illegal in terms of their ingredients and their toxicity, but it takes a lot of delving into the smallprint to find out exactly how the product works. He gives an example of a hand sanitiser whose smallprint advises the use of gloves when applying.

He advises food businesses to “be a bit sceptical because there are people out there looking to profiteer and increase their revenue based on this, with potentially dubious claims”.

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