US FDA says steps needed to stop people drinking hand sanitizer

REUTERS: The US Food and Drug Administration on Monday (Apr 27) asked manufacturers of hand sanitizers to add denatured alcohol to the products in order to make them less palatable in a bid to discourage people, especially children, from drinking the liquid.

The regulator's advisory follows US President Donald Trump's recent comments on whether injecting disinfectants might treat COVID-19, which raised concerns that frightened people could poison themselves with untested treatments.

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"Hand sanitizers are not proven to treat COVID-19, and like other products meant for external use, are not for ingestion, inhalation, or intravenous use," FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr Stephen Hahn addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, DC. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Demand for hand sanitizers has soared after the government and health agencies advised people to clean their hands thoroughly to discourage the spread of the new coronavirus, which has caused over 51,000 deaths in the United States.

The agency said adding denatured alcohol to hand sanitizers renders a bitter taste making the liquid less appealing for consumption.

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Calls to the National Poison Data System last month related to hand sanitizer increased by 79 per cent compared to March 2019, and a majority of them were about unintentional exposure to children aged 5 and younger, the FDA said.

The agency recommended that the products carry child safety warnings and information to get medical help upon accidental consumption.

The FDA, which in March relaxed rules to allow pharmacists to supply alcohol-based hand sanitizers without prescriptions, also said it was taking measures to help ensure continued supply of the product.

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