Consumers reminded: Buy only registered rubbing alcohol, notified hand sanitizer

The chemical safety watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition urged consumers to be vigilant when buying rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer products during this period of public health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Consumers should be on their guard against the spread of unregistered rubbing alcohol and unnotified hand sanitizer in the market, including online stores, as the COVID-19 crisis deepens. Using these unverified products, the safety and efficacy of which is questionable, may give consumers a false sense of security in the time of coronavirus,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The group echoed the plea for consumer vigilance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Rolando Enrique Domingo who issued two successive advisories against the consumption of topical antiseptics and antibacterials lacking the required Certificate of Product Registration, and hand sanitizer with no Certificate of Product Notification.

Through FDA Advisory 2020-422, the agency enjoined consumers “to be vigilant in the purchase and use of these types of products in light of proliferation of unregistered/unnotified products during this time when a state of calamity has been declared due to COVID-19 threat in the country.”

The said advisory provided updated lists of notified hand sanitizers and registered topical antiseptics and antibacterials, including rubbing alcohol, to guide consumers in making informed purchasing decisions.

Prior to this, the FDA through Advisory 2020-421 warned consumers “to be mindful of (online) transactions as there are unscrupulous individuals who are taking advantage of this situation for personal gain.”

“Among those reported to be sold online are products that are unregistered/unnotified hand sanitizers, antiseptics, antibacterials, and other toxic chemicals with unverified claims regarding the elimination of COVID-19,” the FDA said.

To avoid being misled, the FDA advised consumers to carefully check product labeling information, including the country of manufacture, name and address of the company that placed the product on the market, manufacturing or expiry date, product batch number, ingredients’ list, instructions for use and precautionary warnings.

Last March 20, the EcoWaste Coalition alerted the FDA about the unlawful sale in Paco, Manila of an inadequately labeled and unnotified hand sanitizer, which has been subsequently referred to the Regulatory Enforcement Unit for action.

Also, the group last March 12 wrote to the FDA to make available to the public a summary list of duly registered or notified antiseptic and disinfectant products that are effective and safe to use, including rubbing alcohol (ethyl and isopropyl), alcohol spray, “alcogel,” “alcologne,” hand sanitizing gel, disinfecting wipes, and similar products.

The request was made in line with the state policy under the Consumer Act of the Philippines “to protect the interests of the consumer and promote his general welfare,” particularly the consumer right to information to facilitate sound choice, and the right to be protected against hazards to health and safety.