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FDA warns Purell to stop claiming its hand sanitizers can stop flu, Ebola

The FDA says such claims are unproven.
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
The last bottle of Purell hand sanitizer is sold at a West Aid Pharmacy in Los Angeles on Tuesday, April 28, 2009. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The FDA is telling the makers of Purell hand sanitizers to stop claiming that their products can help eliminate viruses like the flu, norovirus, MRSA and even Ebola. The company says it has taken immediate action to comply with the request. 

The agency sent a warning letter to Gojo Industries laying out what it says are unproven claims made about Purell products. These claims have been made on the company's website and in social media posts, according to the FDA. Read the letter here

According to CNN, the FDA says such marketing claims could potentially label the sanitizer as a pharmaceutical drug and not a sanitizing product that can be sold over the counter.

The products include:

  • PURELL Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizer Gentle & Free Foam
  • PURELL Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizer Gel
  • PURELL Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizer Foam
  • PURELL Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizer Gentle & Free Foam ES6 Starter Kit
  • PURELL Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizer ULTRA NOURISHING

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"You should take prompt action to correct the violations cited in this letter. Failure to promptly correct these violations may result in legal action without further notice, including, without limitation, seizure and injunction," the FDA said.

In a statement, Gojo industries emphasized that the FDA letter was not related to the safety or quality of its products, or its manufacturing processes.

The warning letter does say that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization recommend the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers as preventative measures against some viral outbreaks. Purell is made from ethyl alcohol.

Gojo released this statement to TEGNA:

"GOJO took immediate action to respond to FDA claim requirements after receiving a warning letter from the agency on January 17. The letter was related to some of our marketing around PURELL® Hand Sanitizer on GOJO.com and through our social media platforms.

It is important to emphasize that the FDA letter was not related to the safety or quality of our products, or our manufacturing processes. Our products can and should continue to be used as part of good hand hygiene practice, to reduce germs.

Our intention has always been and continues to be to adhere to FDA guidance while advancing and sharing the latest hygiene science to help improve public health. Uncompromising Integrity is a core value of our Purpose-driven Family Enterprise and we apply this principle to everything we do.

It is our responsibility to ensure that we comply with all requirements of FDA regulations and federal law, and we take that responsibility very seriously. To that end, we have begun updating relevant website and other digital content as directed by the FDA and are taking steps to prevent a recurrence."