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FDA warns of more hand sanitizer recalls, consumers buying product thinking its water

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Photo courtesy of FDA

Silver Spring, MD — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers about alcohol-based hand sanitizers that are being packaged in containers that may appear as food or drinks and may put consumers at risk of serious injury or death if ingested. The agency has discovered that some hand sanitizers are being packaged in beer cans, children’s food pouches, water bottles, juice bottles and vodka bottles. Additionally, the FDA has found hand sanitizers that contain food flavors, such as chocolate or raspberry.

“I am increasingly concerned about hand sanitizer being packaged to appear to be consumable products, such as baby food or beverages. These products could confuse consumers into accidentally ingesting a potentially deadly product. It’s dangerous to add scents with food flavors to hand sanitizers which children could think smells like food, eat and get alcohol poisoning,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. “Manufacturers should be vigilant about packaging and marketing their hand sanitizers in food or drink packages in an effort to mitigate any potential inadvertent use by consumers. The FDA continues to monitor these products and we’ll take appropriate actions as needed to protect the health of Americans.”

In one recent example of consumer confusion, the FDA received a report that a consumer purchased a bottle they thought to be drinking water but was in fact hand sanitizer. The agency also received a report from a retailer about a hand sanitizer product marketed with cartoons for children that was in a pouch that resembles a snack. Drinking only a small amount of hand sanitizer is potentially lethal to a young child, who may be attracted by a pleasant smell or brightly colored bottle of hand sanitizer.

Hand sanitizer can be toxic when ingested. The FDA continues to see an increasing number of adverse events with hand sanitizer ingestion, including cardiac effects, effects on the central nervous system, hospitalizations and death, primarily reported to poison control centers and state departments of health.

The FDA encourages health care professionals, consumers and patients to report adverse events or quality problems experienced with the use of hand sanitizers to FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program.

According to the FDA, they continue to proactively work with manufacturers to recall potentially dangerous hand sanitizer products and is strongly encouraging retailers to remove these products from store shelves and online marketplaces. A list of hand sanitizer products the FDA urges consumers not to use, along with a description for consumers on how to use the list, can be found here.

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