Coronavirus: Australian church fined for peddling bleach 'cure'

The leader of the US-based Genesis II Church contacted President Trump days before he suggested disinfectant as a Covid-19 treatment

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump departs on travel to the Camp David presidential retreat from the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 1, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
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A church in Australia has been caught selling a solution containing industrial beach as a "miracle" coronavirus cure and fined more than more than $150,000, the Therapeutic Goods Administration said on Wednesday.

The medical regulator said MMS Australia had received 12 fines totalling Aus$151,200 (US$98,000) for promoting its "Miracle Mineral Solution" (MMS), which the TGA said contained a high concentration of sodium chlorite – a chemical used as a textile bleaching agent and disinfectant.

The church's website falsely claimed the solution could treat and prevent diseases including Covid-19, HIV and cancer, the regulator said.

MMS Australia is a chapter of the US-based Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, which is subject to a US Justice Department injunction preventing it from selling or distributing its own version of MMS containing the bleach product chlorine dioxide.

The fine comes weeks after US President Donald Trump was severely criticised for suggesting Covid-19 patients could be treated with disinfectant, which he later tried to retract, saying he was speaking "sarcastically".

Last month it was revealed that Genesis II church US leader, Mark Grenon wrote to Donald Trump just days before the US President's comments. In the letter Mr Grenon claimed that chlorine dioxide – an industrial bleach that can have fatal side-effects when consumed – is “a wonderful detox that can kill 99% of the pathogens in the body.”

Genesis II is the largest producer and distributor of chlorine dioxide bleach in the US.

Australia's TGA said it had fined the church because it was "concerned about the harmful effects that can be caused by the ingestion of MMS".

"There is no clinical, scientifically-accepted evidence showing that MMS can cure or alleviate any disease," the regulator said.

"The use of MMS presents serious health risks, and can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and severe dehydration, which in some cases can result in hospitalisation."

MMS Australia is still advertising the products on its website, but said it had removed some text from the descriptions "to stay compliant with touted advertising laws and regulations".

It added that "media lies that our site promotes the drinking of dangerous industrial bleach" had led to "ignorant and reprehensible, harrasment (sic) and attacks on our Church".

It is not the first time MMS Australia has been in the spotlight for selling its purported "miracle" cure.

Four Australians were hospitalised after drinking the solution in 2014, prompting the TGA to issue a public safety warning.

The church claims on the site that, contrary to TGA's findings, it does "not list or sell any therapeutic goods, as defined by legislation, and any apparent mention or reference to same is inadvertant (sic) and coincidental".