FDA Issues 'Import Alert' For Hand Sanitizers From Mexico

By Bill Galluccio

January 27, 2021

The Food and Drug Administration is warning that alcohol-based hand sanitizers being imported from Mexico may be contaminated. The agency issued an "import alert" after noticing an uptick in the number of shipments that contained wood alcohol, which can be lethal if ingested.

"Over the course of the ongoing pandemic, the agency has seen a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products from Mexico that were labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but tested positive for methanol contamination," the FDA said in a statement. "Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin and life-threatening when ingested. Methanol is not an acceptable ingredient in hand sanitizer or other drugs."

The FDA found that 84% of the samples analyzed between April and December 2020 were not in compliance with regulations, and more than half of the samples contained dangerous levels of toxic ingredients.

Going forward, the FDA said imports will be subject to heightened FDA scrutiny, and officials will have the power to detain shipments for further testing.

"Today's actions are necessary to protect the safe supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. We will continue to work with our stakeholders to ensure the availability of safe products and to communicate vital information with the health and safety of U.S. consumers in mind," said Judy McMeekin, Pharm.D., FDA Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs.

Photo: Getty Images

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