The Australian chapter of an international church selling and promoting bleach as a cure for COVID-19 has been issued infringement notices totalling $151,200.
- Genesis II Church of Health and Healing claimed chlorine dioxide could cure coronavirus
- The Australian chapter of the church has been issued 12 infringement notices
- The TGA found MMS Australia promoted its products for therapeutic uses
The Genesis II Church of Health and Healing has been claiming chlorine dioxide is a "miracle cure".
For years it has sold the industrial bleach as Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), stating it can cure things like autism, acne, cancer, diabetes and now COVID-19.
MMS is not approved for human consumption in Australia.
It is being sold as "water purification drops" on the website of the Australian chapter of the church, MMS Australia.
Following an investigation by 7.30 last week, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on Wednesday announced it had issued 12 infringement notices totalling $151,200 to MMS Australia for alleged unlawful advertising of Miracle Mineral Solution and other medicines.
A TGA spokesperson told 7.30 it was concerned about the harmful effects that could be caused by the ingestion of MMS.
It has posted an updated safety advisory to warn the public about claims made online about MMS.
"MMS Australia refers consumers who visit its website to a 'Testimonials' page, which includes representations that MMS is capable of treating, among other things, COVID-19," the spokesperson said.
"The TGA considered both the claims found directly on the website along with content found through links, including videos and testimonials in its assessment."
'Their website is still selling these products'
Associate Professor Ken Harvey, an expert in public health from Monash University, has been lobbying the TGA to ban the sale of MMS in Australia for the past 10 years.
"It is dangerous," Associate Professor Harvey told 7.30.
"Deaths have occurred, serious admissions to hospital from this particular substance."
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Associate Professor Harvey said while it was good to see the TGA crack down on MMS Australia, the infringement notices did not go far enough.
"Their website [MMS Australia] is still promoting and selling these products albeit with a disclaimer that these products are 'church sacraments' and not therapeutic goods," he said.
Since last week's 7.30 story, the MMS Australia website has been updated to include a series of disclaimers and customer notices, including this one:
"Due to the current media lies that our site promotes the drinking of dangerous industrial bleach, and the attendant, if ignorant and reprehensible, harassment and attacks on our church, we are largely unable to take phone calls any more."
A TGA spokesperson told 7.30 that a cease and desist letter had also been sent to MMS Australia requiring it to immediately cease advertising the product.
"If the advertising does not cease [by close of business on Thursday, May 14], the TGA will seek an injunction in the Federal Court of Australia."
'Shocking and egregious attack'
7.30 contacted MMS Australia for comment about the $151,200 fine.
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The website is run by Charles Barton, who describes himself in emails to customers as a bishop of the Genesis II Church.
In an email to 7.30, Mr Barton said, "We have no comment, except to point out that this is a shocking and egregious attack on freedom of expression and freedom of religion in Australia.
"The very constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia is being trashed and thrown out the window, no less."
Mr Barton did not respond to questions about whether MMS Australia would accept and pay the fine.