The TCP which many of us grew up with as the go-to remedy for throat and mouth infections - and many other things too - is not the same as the TCP now on sale, despite the fact that it has been marketed with the words “original” and “The real TCP is back”.
It may smell the same, but it does not contain the same amount of phenol - which has antiseptic and disinfectant properties - as before. And the sodium salicylate, an anti-inflammatory and pain compound, has been removed entirely from the new formulation.
TCP became a registered trademark in South Africa in 1945, having been introduced to the market in the ‘20s, a few years after it went on sale in the UK.
It disappeared from our shelves in 2004, and then, suddenly, in 2015 it was back, with the same distinctive smell, thanks to new owners Omegalabs.
In January this year, all Omegalabs brands, including TCP, were ceded to Austell Pharmaceuticals under a sales and distribution license.
The front label of the new TCP bottle no longer states that the all-purpose personal antiseptic liquid also “treats, cleans and protects” cuts, grazes, minor wounds, insect bites, and minor burns.
The change was to bring TCP in line with the TCP formulation in the UK. “All medicinal claims were removed, which meant that the product could be registered under the Food, Cosmetics, and Disinfectants Act,” said Darryl Combe, who was until recently the general manager of Omegalabs.
Austell’s commercial head, Jarrod Kayton says although TCP is classified under the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act as a disinfectant, “the general directions for use do not negate the validity or benefit of using TCP as it was originally used.”
But all the new TCP bottle says is: “To assist with hygiene matters, dilute 1 part TCP with 4 parts water. For use on surfaces and other household items, apply neat for five minutes.”
“Oral health may be included in ‘hygiene matters’,” Kayton said, adding it was still appropriate for it to be sold in the oral health section of pharmacies.
“We have been engaging with the NRCS around including more specific directions for use so as to clarify these details for consumers,” he said, “and have already submitted a labelling proposal to the NRCS.”
But what will happen for sure is the word “original” will be removed from the packaging and marketing messages.
So what’s the deal with the product called 3CP?
Ironically the original TCP formula has been available in SA as 3CP, by Tritof Enterprises, since 2010. Like TCP, it is registered under the Food, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act.
Last year Omegalabs brought court proceedings against Tritof based on trademark infringement, accusing the company of “passing off”, in that consumers would be confused into thinking there was an association between the two. At one point 3CP used the marketing line: “Different packaging, same ingredients.”
The court found there was a trademark infringement. The product remains widely on sale as 3CP, at a significantly higher price than TCP.