The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising clinicians to warn patients, particularly parents of young children, about the dangers of purchasing hand sanitizer that is packaged in a container that resembles food or drinks.

The FDA found that not only are hand sanitizers being packaged in containers that resemble water and juice bottles, but some hand sanitizers also contain food flavors, which FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, MD, cited as a risk for children to ingest and become poisoned, according to a press release from the organization.

According to the FDA, the number of adverse events connected to hand sanitizer ingestion is on the rise. Hand sanitizer ingestion has led to cardiac events, effects on the central nervous system, hospitalizations, and death, based on reports to poison control centers and state departments of health.

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The FDA recently received news that a retailer was selling hand sanitizer branded with cartoons for children in a container that resembled a snack pouch, which the agency noted is particularly dangerous due to the relatively low amount of hand sanitizer a child could ingest and still experience toxic effects. Children may be particularly tempted to ingest hand sanitizer products that smell like food or are stored in brightly colored bottles, according to the FDA.

In an effort to proactively remove dangerous products from the hands of consumers, the FDA is continuously updating a list of hand sanitizers that is not recommended for use. In the event that a consumer experiences an adverse event related to hand sanitizer product, health care professionals and patients are encouraged to report the incident to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program.

“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,” Dr Hahn said. “The FDA continues to monitor these products and we’ll take appropriate actions as needed to protect the health of Americans.”


COVID-19 Update: FDA Warns Consumers About Hand Sanitizer Packaged in Food and Drink Containers [news release]. Silver Spring, MD: US Food & Drug Administration Newsroom; August 27, 2020. Accessed September 1, 2020.