hygiene fraud

Watch out for hygienic fraud

Look out for hygienic fraud: that's the warning of a microbiologist who specializes in cleaning and sanitation.
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Nathalie Thibault, B.SC., M.SC., MCB.A.

COVID-19 has certainly contributed to raising public awareness about the importance of good hygiene and sanitation, and we salute everyone’s efforts to address the global health crisis. But watch out for hygienic fraud.

The pandemic, unfortunately, exacerbates the behaviours of unscrupulous people who are trying to make a profit by relying on fear and ignorance. There are more and more advertisements for “anti-COVID-19” products and a sudden emergence of professional cleaning and disinfection services. Of course, it is important to always remain vigilant, even more so now that certain organizations, such as the INRS and the Anti-Fraud Centre in Canada or the CDC in the United States, are warning the population against new COVID-19 related frauds.

The growing trend towards hygienic fraud

What is hygienic fraud? It is a term coined for the sake of this column to describe the offering of tools, products, or services that do not meet the current situation or your requirements, whether voluntary or not by the provider of the products or services.  Either the chemical solution is too weak to kill the coronavirus and therefore absolutely ineffective, or the solution is far too violent for such an easily inactivated virus, or the proposed technique promotes cross-contamination. In any case, the result is an unnecessary waste of time and money, at your expense.

Faced with so much new information, so many different products and tools, taking decisions without the advice of an expert can cost you a lot of money but can also mislead you into believing that your environment is disinfected and safe when it is not. In short, calling upon the services of an independent consultant is not an unnecessary expense; on the contrary, it can allow you to save a lot of money and above all to make the right choice.

Typical examples of hygienic fraud

Most companies act professionally, in your best interest, and can only benefit from highlighting certain questionable practices for the sake of protecting the population.

Having said that, here are some examples of the most common frauds detected in the last 10 months. The intention here is not to discredit industry players but rather to raise customer awareness:

  • A new product “sharing” the same DIN as another product. This is an illegal practice. In Canada, every licensed product must have its own DIN (Drug Identification Number).
  • Promises not kept. This may include a promised DIN, a promise to be listed on Health Canada’s COVID-19 list of disinfectants, a virucidal claim in the process of being obtained, etc.
  • Exaggerating the actual benefits of the product.
  • Falsification of the safety data sheet by duplicating another safety data sheet.
  • Error in technical data sheets that distorts reality and exposes users to health risks.
  • Making unofficial claims about product attributes. Only Health Canada can issue product claims.
  • Selling unsuitable disinfection services and techniques by using the most time-consuming techniques to bill extra time.
  • Ignoring the safety data sheets of a product to the point of going against it by verbally suggesting to the customer that the product can be used without personal protective equipment when this is not what is stated on the safety data sheet.
  • The application of “green” logos on labels and advertisements when the product is not certified as being environmentally friendly.
  • Above all, deliberately ignoring the fact that coronavirus is not transmitted as much through objects and surfaces as previously thought, and not admitting that excessive disinfection is questioned by many specialists… All experts rather agree to advocate thoughtful and appropriate disinfection for each situation according to the inherent risks.

From the very first weeks of the pandemic, ValkarTech offered its services to help fight, protect, and prevent the effects of COVID-19. During this critical period, the company offers the opportunity to benefit from visits by hygiene and sanitation specialists to observe the characteristics of an environment on-site, to analyze calls for tenders, and to evaluate customers’ choices in terms of tools, products, and household maintenance service providers. The intervention allows either a validation or a restructuring of disinfection protocols with the goal of guaranteeing the safety of installations.

Through all the mandates entrusted to us over the last 10 months, I have personally analyzed countless disinfectant products, antibacterial coatings of all kinds, validated several protocols and even had the chance to handle various electrostatic spraying devices. The conclusion I have come to is a very worrying one: hygienic fraud is spreading. People may try to steal your time or money by betting on fear…and this manifests itself in many ways. Beware!

It is perfectly normal to ask for advice if you are not a specialist in chemical products and sanitary maintenance techniques. Do not hesitate to contact experts in the field if you need an impartial opinion or simply to validate your choices, your work techniques, the products used, your protocols or other aspects before applying them!

Choose a company whose primary mission is to maximize your level of productivity, improve your corporate image and contribute to the safety of your buildings.

Nathalie Thibault is a certified microbiologist and the Training Director at ValkarTech │ Building Hygiene Management, a Canadian consulting firm that guides, supports, and advises their clients on ways to optimize the operational performance of their organizations in terms of building hygiene and sanitation. For more information, please email doliveira@buildinghm.com, visit https://www.buildinghm.com/ ,or call (647-812-0160).

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