Consumer group Choice said a hand sanitiser product sold by Mosaic Brands returned a result of 23 per cent alcohol.
The gold standard for hand sanitiser is 60 to 80 per cent alcohol – the level required to kill coronavirus if it is on your hands.
Earlier in the pandemic, experts raised fears that variations in alcohol levels meant products marketed as hand sanitiser were futile in preventing transmission of coronavirus.
Mosaic Brands, the retailer behind women’s fashion stores Noni B and Katies, said the accusations were “sensationalist” and irresponsible.
The company said its tests confirmed “the alcohol content … is within the range to eliminate 99.8 per cent of germs”, but did not specify the range in numerical terms when asked.
The brand confirmed it had temporarily withdrawn the Air Clean Instant Hand Sanitiser from sale to undergo further testing, but disputed Choice’s claims the alcohol level was “far below what would have been effective against COVID-19”.
The World Health Organisation standard requires at least 80 per cent ethanol or 75 per cent isopropyl alcohol.
Andrew McLachlan from the University of Sydney’s School of Pharmacy said that washing hands with soap and water was still the best defence in preventing transmission of COVID-19.
“In any market where there’s significant demand but not very clear regulation about the nature of the products, there’s a risk that some products would enter the market that are substandard,” Professor McLachlan said.
He advised customers to look at the label to ensure it contains at least 60 per cent alcohol or ethanol content.
Expensive doesn’t always mean better and pleasantly smelling doesn’t always mean better,’’ Professor McLachlan said.
“It’s really about the ingredients and whether they’ve been appropriately tested.”
Choice said it had received dozens of tipoffs about different products that it would now begin to test.
“Lots of companies and brands have moved into the market, responding to genuine consumer need,” Choice’s director of campaigns Erin Turner said.
“But we need to make sure the products are at a standard that keeps us all safe.”
Ms Turner said more brands needed to proactively check their products and conduct spot checks to ensure consumer safety.