Hundreds of thousands of bottles and tubes of Savlon have been removed from sale after animal rights activists claimed to have contaminated them.

The Animal Rights Militia said it had tampered with 250 Savlon antiseptic products as part of a campaign against an animal testing laboratory. Savlon is primarily marketed as a treatment for children's cuts and grazes.

The group did not say how the items had been tampered with, but it also claimed to have contaminated Novartis contact lens solution, on sale in France, by injecting bottles with bleach.

It said it had targeted Savlon because it believed the product's Swiss manufacturer, Novartis, was a client of the Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) research centre.

In a statement addressed to the Novartis chief executive, Daniel Vasella, the group said the campaign against the firm would continue unless it severed its ties with HLS.

It made the contamination claim in a statement posted on the website of the US Animal Liberation Front magazine BiteBack on Tuesday.

"Over the last five days, over 250 tubes and bottles of ... Savlon have been tampered with in the north of England in stores such as Superdrug, Boots and other well-known stores.

"We don't want to kill living beings like Novartis, but the side effects and the inevitable hospital stay will give people an idea of what Novartis pays for inside Huntingdon Life Sciences.

"The message is clear and uncompromising ... you must stop killing animals inside Huntingdon Life Sciences or this will only be the beginning of our campaign."

On the same day, the group issued a similar warning about contaminated bottles of contact lens solution being sold in France.

"On August 25-27, 85 bottles of Solo Care, Aqua made at Novartis were infected across France," it said. "We infected Vision Origionale, Atol, Krys, Optical Center and Optique Jardin." It claimed the contaminant was hydrogen peroxide.

In 1984, the Animal Rights Militia claimed to have poisoned supplies of Mars bars, but later admitted this was a hoax. The group said the action had caused huge financial losses for the chocolate manufacturer.

There is no evidence that Savlon products have been contaminated, but Novartis said it was taking the threat seriously and had contacted police and the shops it supplies.

"This appears to be part of the long-running campaign by animal rights extremists which adversely affects both Novartis and our consumers," a company spokesman said.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said it was working with Novartis, retailers and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to investigate.

An Acpo spokesman said: "Our overriding priority is to ensure that members of the public remain safe at all times."

The MHRA, which regulates the safety of medicines and medical devices, said customers should check Savlon product packaging and not use anything that may have been tampered with.

A spokeswoman for Boots said the company wanted to "reassure customers that their safety is our number one priority" and had withdrawn all Savlon products from its stores across the country until investigations had been carried out.