21may major sunscreen fraud hero
14 May 2021

Major sunscreen fraud exposed

$63 million fraud went on for decades.

The owner of a US lab that tested sunscreens sold to Kiwi consumers has pleaded guilty to falsifying results.

Test reports from the company, AMA Laboratories, have been used by many manufacturers to justify their sun protection claims, even when our independent testing found the products weren’t up to standard.

The fraud went on for 30 years.

Last week, AMA Labs' owner finally admitted cooking up false lab reports and defrauding customers of $63 million.

A statement issued on 4 May 2021 by the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York said AMA Lab owner Gabriel Letizia Jr had “schemed for decades to defraud customers”, causing sunscreens and other products to be sold and marketed on the basis of false test reports.

From 1987 to April 2017, Letizia and senior staff defrauded customers of more than $63 million ($US46m). Letizia is now facing up to seven years in prison.

Four former AMA employees have previously pleaded guilty in connection with the fraud.

We’re calling on any manufacturer that’s relied on reports from AMA Labs to urgently retest. Unless companies have good evidence to substantiate their SPF claims, they need to pull products off the shelf.

In our latest test, the following brands relied on results from AMA Labs to support their SPF claims:

  • Ecosol Water Shield Sunscreen SPF50+

  • Natural Instinct Invisible Natural Sunscreen SPF30

  • Sukin Suncare Sheer Touch Facial Sunscreen Untinted SPF30.

In April, we lodged a complaint with the Commerce Commission asking it to investigate sunscreens that failed to meet SPF claims.

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Member comments

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David C.
16 May 2021

Fraud seems to be part of collective human behaviour - in a big group someone will 'try it on' for illicit gain. Isn't the challenge to work out how to prevent that behaviour without regulation and bureaucracy that adds a global cost (inevitably passed on to consumers), to catch a relatively small number of bad actors?

Vere G.
15 May 2021
Sunscreen fraud

This sunscreen testing fraud is quiet likely responsible for large treatment costs, some terrible suffering and deaths. Hard to prove but very likely true.
Vere Gandar

Ray M.
15 May 2021
Easy fix in 2 ways

1. Adopt the aussie rules.
2. Require annual or even batch level testing at an accredited lab.

Dean J.
15 May 2021
Where do we test for NZ

Do we need our own lab in NZ to manage getting trustworthy results?