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The Daily Telegraph article "Citronella deters insects but it's illegal to say so"

HSE Biocides Unit responds - 25 September 2006

The Editor
Daily Telegraph
1 Canada Square
E14 5DT

13 October 2006


An article entitled: "Citronella deters insects but it's illegal to say so" appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on 25/09/06; this article contained some statements that we consider misleading and we have prepared the following factual corrections.

The claim that citronella is no longer legally available on the UK market as an insect repellent because 'Citronella is not listed under the EC's Biocidal Products Directive, 98/8, as an "active agent" is not accurate. Under the requirements of the Biocidal Products Directive (BPD), for a substance to remain on the EU market it has to be supported by data provided by the manufacturer/formulator of that substance. The Citronella industry made the decision not to support Citronella and under the requirements of the BPD the substance had to be removed from use in biocidal products by 1 September 2006.

The article also makes a reference to the fee of £89,000 'which has to be paid by 'hundreds of manufacturers'. This is misleading, it is true that a fee is required, but it is one fee per substance and the BPD encourages applicants to form task forces to share costs. All member states are required to recoup costs for the work done under the BPD and the fee charged by HSE is for the work it carries out scientifically evaluating the data provided by the manufacturer.

The statement that 'The HSE has proclaimed that it is now an offence to sell or even use preparations based on Citronella in England, Scotland, and Wales - but this does not seem to be the case in Ireland (including Northern Ireland), or elsewhere in the EU' is completely false as the BPD is an European Directive and the point is that Citronella has not been supported in Europe so the same rules apply in all member states. The suggestion that Germany and Denmark have not heard of this restriction is wrong, officials in members sates are aware of the restrictions placed on Citronella and other unsupported substances under the BPD.

The statement that 'according to the HSE, "if candles containing citronella do not make any pesticidal/biocidal claims (such as repellency claims)" they "do not have to be removed from the EU market". The many advertisements for such candles on the Internet, claiming to repel insects, are therefore criminal. By the same logic, this surely means that, such claims are removed from the advertising, products can still legally be sold?' is also misleading, not all products that contain Citronella are biocides and those products that are outside of the remit of the BPD are not required to comply with it. The article then goes on to suggest that it is solely the label claims that makes a product a 'biocide' - this is not the case, as the intended end use of the product is of primary concern. Clearly label claims, marketing material, and advertisements are a strong indication of intent, but these are not mutually exclusive.

The author then goes on to say 'that visitors to countries such as Africa can take citronella with them because, although it is illegal to sell it, it is still legal for private use. (Anyone can buy it from a chemist to make up their own formulation', is also misleading. Citronella can be legally bought and used to formulate products for export outside of the EC.

HSE Biocides Unit

Updated 2012-01-13