With coronavirus still occupying our lives six months since it first arrived in Australia, companies have looked to new ways to market their products in a COVID-19-dominated world. The latest is ‘anti-virus’ activewear, but experts warn there’s no such thing.
A report by Triple J’s Hack program showed that popular fitness clothing brand, Lorna Jane, had been promoting a new product, LJ Shield, claiming it protects its wearers against germs and bacteria by “break[ing] through the membrane shell of any toxic diseases, bacteria or germs that come into contact with it, not only killing that microbe but preventing it from multiplying anymore”.
The technology, which was developed in partnership with US biotech company Fuze, is a water-based, non-toxic chemical that allegedly permanently remains on clothing products once applied. It promises to keep garments free of odour-causing bacteria and mould and has been introduced to garments as a company exclusive.
While Triple J’s report contained a screenshot where ‘anti-virus’ was clearly visible in an infographic, as was a reference to COVID-19, the Lorna Jane page has now removed all mentions of ‘virus’ from the text and images.
Lifehacker Australia can confirm on 16 July the page’s source code reveals it still contains at least 12 mentions of ‘anti-virus’ in image and file names, despite removing it from public visibility.
Australia’s largest medical practitioner body, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), dismissed the original ‘anti-virus’ claims as misleading and exploitative.
“Active wear is great for the gym but it can’t protect you against viruses or bacteria. I suspect Lorna Jane are cynically trying to exploit fears concerning the COVID-19 pandemic to sell clothes,” Dr Harry Nespolon, the RACGP President, said in a media statement.
“If you spray their product onto any fabric and expect that it will act as a ‘shield of protection’ for you by breaking through the ‘membrane shell of any toxic diseases’ I have some bad news for you — this will not happen. The only thing that will be ‘terminated’ by the ‘shield particles’ is the money in your bank account.”
Australia’s tough medical regulator has yet to approve any Lorna Jane product
Products that claim to kill bacteria or viruses, such as Lorna Jane’s LJ Shield products, are almost always subject to strict medical regulation. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is the body responsible for reviewing medical and therapeutic goods and approving, or declining, whether they can be sold in the country with these claims advertised.
If it is approved by the TGA, the product is then entered into a register, called the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), and allowed to be legally sold to Australians.
There are more than 90,000 products listed but a quick search of the ARTG reveals no products supplied by Lorna Jane are included on the register.
Triple J reported the TGA is “looking into it”.
“With some exceptions, claims that a product can prevent infection with coronavirus, or other microorganisms that can cause illness, are therapeutic use claims and result in the product being a therapeutic good, and therefore subject to therapeutic good regulation,” the TGA said in a statement to Triple J.
Lifehacker Australia has contacted Lorna Jane for comment and any evidence supporting its claims about LJ Shield’s effectiveness.