KEY POINTS

  • FDA learned some hand sanitizers come in packages like food pouches, water bottles and beer cans
  • Several contain food flavors like raspberry or chocolate also
  • Ingesting alcohol-based sanitizers may cause serious cardiac issues and may have fatal consequences

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned the public against buying hand sanitizers that come in containers looking like packaged food or beverages as they can result in serious injury or death if consumed.

The federal agency said Thursday that the packaging of such disinfectants endangers the customers as they could easily mistake the product for a beverage or food and ingest them. 

The agency learned some hand sanitizers come in packages like food pouches, water bottles and beer cans, with several containing food flavors like raspberry or chocolate. Ingesting alcohol-based sanitizers may cause serious cardiac issues and may have fatal consequences, the FDA warned.

hand sanitizer packaging A representational photo of hand sanitizer. Photo: Harvey Boyd - Pixabay

Health officials revealed a consumer bought a plastic bottle filled with hand sanitizer, thinking it was drinking water. The agency also said it received a report from a retailer about some hand sanitizers that are packaged in the form of a snack pack and marketed with children's cartoons.

The federal agency warned the hand sanitizer, even if ingested in small amounts by a young child could result in lethal consequences. Young children could easily get attracted to them due to their eye-catching packages and pleasant smells.  

The FDA called on consumers and health care professionals to report similar instances to the agency's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program. Officials also said consumers who wish to report quality problems they experienced with hand sanitizer use must provide the agency with as much information as possible to identify the product immediately. The federal agency also urged the public to check the list of hand sanitizers posted on the FDA's website so they can be informed about products they should avoid. 

In a statement, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn expressed concern about products packaged in the form of consumable items. "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," the FDA commissioner said.

Hahn also said that manufacturers need to be vigilant about the packaging of their hand sanitizers, as well as how they market them to minimize any inadvertent use. He assured customers that the federal agency constantly monitors these products and is ready to take appropriate action to protect the health and well-being of Americans.

The FDA already issued a warning about toxic compounds in many hand sanitizers. One such ingredient to be on the lookout for is methanol. The agency had banned over 170 products in the past few months because they contained methanol.

They also pointed out a number of hand sanitizers contain 1-propanol, which is toxic and life-threatening if ingested. It added some brands contain this ingredient but do not include it in their labels.

Early this month, the federal agency also issued a warning regarding the use of hand sanitizers on dog's paws. The agency said such practice can make the dog sick as the canine can inadvertently ingest the substance.