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FDA just issued a new warning about hand sanitizers

Published Aug 28th, 2020 2:37PM EDT
FDA hand sanitizer warning
Image: Jo Panuwat D/Adobe

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  • The FDA is warning consumers that some hand sanitizers are being packaged in a way that they could be mistaken for food or drink, especially by children.
  • Even a small amount of hand sanitizer can be fatal if ingested by a child, but ingesting any amount can cause serious injury and put you in the hospital for alcohol poisoning.
  • The FDA has already banned over 170 hand sanitizer products that contain methanol.

One of the first actions we were told to take to keep ourselves and those around us safe during the novel coronavirus pandemic was to wash our hands or use hand sanitizer when running water and soap aren’t available. In the months since those recommendations, we’ve learned that not all hand sanitizers are created equal, as the FDA has banned close to 200 products that contain methanol, which can do serious harm to the human body.

This week, the FDA issued another warning about hand sanitizers, but this has more to do with how the products are packaged than what they have in them. The FDA is concerned about hand sanitizers that are sold in containers that would normally hold food or drinks, as ingesting hand sanitizer could lead to injury or death.

“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.”

The FDA recently received a report that someone bought a hand sanitizer packaged in a bottle that they thought was drinking water. Another hand sanitizer was had cartoons on the label and was sold in a pouch that looked like it would contain a snack. Even small amounts of hand sanitizer can be fatal if ingested by a child.

If this is ringing any bells, you might be thinking of the infamous Tide Pods, which are dishwasher detergent packets that happen to look like colorful, bite-sized snacks. Imagine if Tide had sold those packets a package that looked like a bag of potato chips. That’s pretty much what some hand sanitizer manufacturers are doing with their products, and if even one person mistakes it for food or a beverage, they could end up dead. I’m not sure if the FDA would consider partnering with CollegeHumor, but this video basically sums up this problem:

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.