While the COVID-19 pandemic – and subsequent efforts to curtail the spread of the virus – have forced companies, and the federal government, to adapt, regulators remain on the job.
The Food and Drug Administration announced a recall of 77 hand sanitizer brands the agency says contain methanol, which poses serious health risks.
The agency explained consumers who used hand sanitizers containing methanol, also known as wood alcohol, should seek medical attention as soon as possible to treat the toxic effects of methanol poisoning.
“Practicing good hand hygiene, which includes using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available, is an important public health tool for all Americans to employ. Consumers must also be vigilant about which hand sanitizers they use. For their health and safety, we urge consumers to immediately stop using all hand sanitizers on the FDA’s list of dangerous hand sanitizer products,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn said in a release announcing the recall. “We remain extremely concerned about the potentially serious risks of alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol. Producing, importing, and distributing toxic hand sanitizers poses a serious threat to the public and will not be tolerated. The FDA will take additional action as necessary and will continue to provide the latest information on this issue for the health and safety of consumers.”
Substantial methanol exposure can result in “nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death.”
While these products threaten anyone who used these products, the FDA added that “young children who accidentally ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute are most at risk for methanol poisoning.”
The FDA posted a do-not-use list of dangerous hand sanitizer products, which the agency updates frequently. In most cases, methanol doesn’t show up on the product label.
The FDA revealed the recalls when consumers have been buying hand sanitizers in droves, with U.S. sales up 73% in March, the first full month the pandemic spread across the United States, according to market research firm ReportLinker. Polls suggest 77% of Americans regularly used hand sanitizers in April.
According to Grand View Research, hand sanitizer sales in the United States reached $2.7 billion in 2019, which expects sales of such products to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 22.6% through 2027.
Recalls Trailing Off?
This latest recall doesn’t mean it’s business as usual for regulators.
According to Dan Flynn at Food Business News, “Maybe the federal government’s ‘all hands on deck’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t had anything to do with it, but the pace of food recalls seems to be a little off during the same period. Consider, for example, that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) did not recall any meat, poultry, egg products, or catfish between Feb. 8 and April 10.”
And the FDA issued just eight pathogen-related food safety recalls since the start of the pandemic.
The reputation of food, beverage, and dietary supplement companies is built on trust, quality, and safety. A recall can spell disaster. To help address this serious issue, TraceGains asked Bryan Armentrout, CEO of the Food Leadership Group, to share what the FDA is looking for based on the latest enforcement actions, and what you can do to ensure your company avoids a costly recall. Register for the webinar here.