Australian ‘healing church’ fined for selling bleach as a coronavirus cure

Australian arm of Genesis II group who wrote to Donald Trump fined $150,000

Bleach pictured for sale on New Jersey on Tuesday. Photograph: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg

A “healing church” that promoted a solution containing industrial bleach as a cure for coronavirus has been fined more than $150,000 for multiple allegedly unlawful advertising offences.

On Wednesday Australia’s drugs regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), said the Australian chapter of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing had been fined for selling and promoting a solution containing sodium chlorite, a chemical used as a textile bleaching agent and disinfectant.

The Australian website for the church, MMS Australia, falsely claimed the solution could treat, cure, prevent and alleviate diseases including Covid-19, HIV and cancer, the TGA said.

It has been revealed that Genesis II church US leader, Mark Grenon, wrote to Donald Trump just days before the US president claimed disinfectant could be a coronavirus cure.


The letter stated that chlorine dioxide - a powerful bleach used in industrial processes such as textile manufacturing that can have fatal side-effects when drunk - is “a wonderful detox that can kill 99 per cent of the pathogens in the body”. He added that it “can rid the body of Covid-19”.

In a statement the TGA said there was no clinical, scientifically-accepted evidence showing the solution could cure or alleviate any disease. The use of the solution “presents serious health risks, and can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and severe dehydration, which in some cases can result in hospitalisation”, it said.

The TGA also alleges MMS Australia implied a health practitioner had endorsed the product, and that the website included a testimonial endorsing the product from someone directly involved with the production, sale, supply and marketing of it.

MMS Australia has not removed the products from its website. It has updated the website to say those seeking miracle cures “should pray to The Lord for healing and guidance”. The website also says those seeking the bleach solution and other products urgently could add a $5 express shipping voucher to their online shopping basket to jump to the front of the queue.

“Our products, their descriptions and other information posted here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease, and any apparent reference to same is inadvertent and purely coincidental,” MMS Australia said. “We do not believe in miracle cures, but in healthy, wholesome living and good nutrition to keep the temple of our souls, our bodies, clean and free of harmful chemicals and poisons. We also believe in the power of quiet contemplation, meditation and prayer.”

An Australian representative of the church’s MMS Australia Foundation previously told Guardian Australia: “Do you go into the Catholic church and question them about the wine or the bread that they serve in the Eucharist? No, so why doesn’t the world leave us alone? These are our sacraments and we should be free to use it and teach other people to use it.”

The TGA has been engaged in a long-running battle to stop false claims around the solution. Four people were taken to hospital in 2014 in Victoria after ingesting the solution, prompting the TGA to issue a warning that products with high concentrations of sodium chlorite are considered poison.

Victoria’s Department of Health has also issued warnings. At the time, a department spokesman said: “This isn’t like drinking bleach, it literally is drinking bleach.”

Dr Ken Harvey, an associate professor of public health from Monash University, said he welcomed the fine but it was not a strong enough deterrent given the product had been causing issues for years.

“Yes the TGA issued infringement notices but this is just essentially an invitation to pay the fine or go to court and argue their case,” Harvey said. “In the meantime the MMS website is still up selling the products, with a few extras disclaimers, and they are now trying to label it as some kind of religious sacrament.

“What the TGA needs to do is order the website be taken down and a safety and warning notice and apology put in its place. While an infringement notice is a good step, it hasn’t done anything to stop the website, which is still promoting and selling it.” - Guardian