Natural insect repellents can have a hidden sting

Regulators say there a growing number of potentially unsafe and ineffective insect repellents being sold in stores across Australia.
Regulators say there a growing number of potentially unsafe and ineffective insect repellents being sold in stores across Australia.

Many of us have seen “natural’ insect repellents for sale at markets.

But are they registered? Fines of up to $1.5 million can apply.

Most of us have personal chemical-based favourites like Bushman’s, Rid or Aerogard.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority wants retailers to only stock APVMA registered products to avoid heavy fines and risking customer safety.

APVMA chief executive officer, Dr Chris Parker, said the regulator had noticed a growing number of potentially unsafe and ineffective products being sold in stores across Australia.

“All insect repellents for human use, including chemical-based products, and ‘natural’ plant-based alternatives, are required by law to be registered with the APVMA before they can be sold in Australia,” Dr Parker said.

A business can be fined up to $157,500 by the APVMA for supplying an unregistered product, while a court can impose penalties of up to $1.5 million. 

“The dangers of supplying or promoting an unregistered product go beyond breaking the law,” Dr Parker said.  

“Insect repellents that come through the APVMA’s regulatory assessment process have been through the proper checks and balances to ensure product safety and effectiveness.

“Unregistered products are not only illegal, they haven’t been through a scientific assessment process that ensures potentially harmful and/or ineffective products are kept off Australian shelves.”

The regulator warned that plant-based, ‘natural’ insect repellents were not always effective or safer than traditional, chemical-based products.

“The only way to be sure an insect repellent –made of ‘natural’ or chemical-based substances—will be safe to use and work as claimed is if it’s been assessed and registered by the APVMA,” Dr Parker said.

“It’s irresponsible to be stocking or supplying unregistered agvet products. Doing so is putting customers at risk of exposure to insect-borne diseases and unwanted side effects like skin irritations."

The APVMA is running a targeted campaign to encourage retailers and suppliers to check the registration of all natural insect repellents before the mosquitos and flies return in the warmer months. This includes any lotions, wrist bands, body sprays, candles, coils, wipes, wear-on stickers and roll-ons.

If you’re supplying a product that doesn’t have an APVMA approval number on the label, contact the APVMA at compliance@apvma.gov.au or call 1300 700 315. Reports of possible non-compliance are treated confidentially.

Learn more about your responsibilities when selling natural insect repellents at apvma.gov.au/compliance-education

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