'Corrosive' dishwasher powder defended
Cleaning products company Earthwise has rejected suggestions it is misleading customers, after its dishwashing powder was found to be highly corrosive.
Testing by Consumer New Zealand found the powder had a pH level of 13.2 - breaching industry safety standards.
Chief executive Sue Chetwin said the product had been marketed as "naturally kind" and that was likely to mislead consumers into thinking it was a safer choice.
Earthwise has recalled the powder from wholesalers and supermarkets and offered refunds to customers who have bought it.
Director Allen Peters said it had adjusted its blending method when it learnt of the issue and independent testing showed its powder was now registering a pH level of 11.5 - below the 12.5 limit. It was investigating what had caused the problem.
Earthwise had not misled consumers, he said. The term "naturally kind" was a "brand statement", not a claim that had been made of its dishwashing powder.
The company was working with Government-back agency Environmental Choice New Zealand to gain certification and believed it was justified in claiming most of its products were "naturally kind".
"For the majority of our products we can say that, perhaps not for dishwashing powder. But the ingredients we're using are kinder on the environment than ingredients in some of the other products out there that are equivalent."
Dishwashing powder had to be corrosive to a degree in order to do its job, he said.
Earthwise had made a mistake but it would not happen again, Peters said.
It was not aware of any customers suffering burns from the powder and many had been happy to swap it at their supermarkets for Earthwise powder that met safety standards.
Chetwin said it was pleased the company had addressed the problem but was extremely concerned the product failed to meet the pH standard.
"This standard was introduced to minimise the risk of harm to young children from automatic dishwasher products. All manufacturers should be complying with it."
Consumer said in the past children had suffered severe burns to the mouth, throat and airways after eating dishwashing powders with a high pH.
Some of the burns were so severe the children affected needed surgery to repair damage from scar tissue.
The sale of automatic dishwasher detergents with a pH higher than 12.5 has been prohibited since 2007, under the Cleaning Products (Corrosive) Group Standard.
In 2010 Consumer found All Natural Nature's Choice laundry powder was highly corrosive.
It claimed to be "environmentally friendly" and "hypo-allergenic" contained an ingredient called sodium metasilicate, a highly corrosive mineral salt.
The company subsequently reformulated the product.
Consumer tested 19 dishwasher tablets and powders this month. It said while no other products breached the pH safety standard, all detergents needed to be used with care as they often contained corrosive substances that could cause chemical burns if they got into people's eyes, were eaten or left on the skin.
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