Monday, January 22, 2007

Taking Issue with Antiviral Tissues

Do we care that Kimberley-Clark (KMB) has no idea if their anti-viral Kleenex tissues are in fact anti-viral? Is it ethical for them to place advertisements with claims regarding their products without substantiating evidence?

This morning I read the Wall Street Journal's article on the carefully-contructed marketing campaign to "re-brand" Kleenex facial tissues - using an anti-viral "pesticide" in its middle layer that claims to kill 99% of viruses when activated by moisture within 15 minutes. But I was particularly struck by the fact that there were never any tests to prove their effectiveness:
"After a year-long review, the EPA approved the product in 2003, with certain caveats. The agency, for example, required that Kleenex state on its label that the product hadn’t been tested against bacteria, fungi, or viruses.”
But what is this "pesticide?" According to their website (and confirmed by their material data safety sheet on their "virucide"), nothing but citric acid and sodium laurel sulfate (a sudsing agent). They claim that citric acid kills 99.9% of viruses on contact after 15 minutes. Really? Could spreading orange juice on our skin prevent the bird flu pandemic? Am I drinking a "pesticide" each morning? Aaaauuugghhh! Quick, Marge, to the Emergency Room!

So what then, does the term “anti-viral” mean? Does it mean “we really think it’s anti-viral? Does it mean, their "pesticide" combo is so bad that we dare not test this stuff? Is it really, as their ad says, a “Ruthless Killer” of viruses, bacteria and fungi?
For its ads, Kleenex considered a bold approach, showing a little girl blowing her nose and a message that punched up the tissue's tough side. After focus groups didn't seem to mind, the brand started running the print ads in 2005. The tagline: "Ruthless Killer."
And just to show their compassion to a schools in Texas and Michigan:
When flu outbreaks closed schools in Texas and Michigan in 2005, Kimberly-Clark shipped them dozens of free boxes of antiviral tissues. The Lovelady Independent School District in Lovelady, Texas, put two boxes in every classroom.
Remarkable that claims like theirs can be placed on products without proof – but then, it’s all about marketing, isn’t it?

Citric acid a "pesticide" - shheesh!


10:20 AM - One more thing: these "antiviral" tissues cost 40% more than regular ones. You might want to save your money.

Reference: WSJ (subscription)

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