FDA Warning Issued About Hand Sanitizer Packaging

Aug 28, 2020 – Alcohol-based hand sanitizers packaged in containers that look like food or drink could cause injury or death if swallowed, according to a new warning issued Thursday by the FDA.

Hand sanitizers come packaged in beer cans, water bottles, juice bottles, vodka bottles, and sachets of children’s food, the FDA said. Some disinfectants also contain flavors, such as chocolate or raspberry, which can be confusing.

“I’m increasingly concerned that hand sanitizer is packaged to appear to be consumable products, such as baby food or drink,” said Stephen Hahn, MD, the FDA commissioner, in a press release.

Drinking hand sanitizer accidentally – even in small amounts – is potentially fatal for children.

“These products could cause consumers to accidentally ingest a potentially fatal product,” he said. “Adding scents with food flavors to hand sanitizers that children might think smell, eat and be intoxicated by alcohol is dangerous.

For example, the FDA received a report of a consumer who purchased a bottle that looked like drinking water but was actually a hand sanitizer. In another report, a retailer told the agency about a hand sanitizer product that was marketed in a pouch that looks like a kids’ snack and featured cartoons.

Meanwhile, the FDA’s warning list for dangerous hand sanitizers that contain methanol continues to grow, as some people drink the sanitizers to get high alcohol levels. Others believed a rumor, circulated online, that drinking very strong and toxic alcohol can disinfect the body, protecting it from COVID-19 infection.

Earlier this month, the FDA also issued a warning regarding hand sanitizers contaminated with 1-propanol. Ingestion of 1-propanol can cause central nervous system depression, which can be fatal, according to the agency. Symptoms from exposure to 1-propanol may include confusion, decreased consciousness, and slowed pulse and breathing.

One brand of disinfectant, Harmonic Nature S from RL of MI of Mexico, is labeled to contain ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, but has tested positive for 1-propanol contamination.

Poison control centers and state health departments have reported a growing number of adverse events associated with ingestion of hand sanitizer, including heart problems, nervous system problems, hospitalizations and deaths, according to the press release.

The FDA has encouraged consumers and healthcare professionals to report concerns to the MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program. The agency is working with manufacturers to recall confusing and unsafe products and is encouraging retailers to remove certain products from shelves. The FDA is also updating its list of hand sanitizer products consumers should avoid.

“Manufacturers should be vigilant in the packaging and marketing of their hand sanitizers in food or beverage packages to limit any potential accidental use by consumers,” Hahn said.

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Jothi Venkat

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