Consumers’ Foundation warns against hand sanitizers sold online

TAIPEI (CNA) — A dozen randomly selected hand sanitizers sold on online shopping platforms in Taiwan were all found to be in violation of the law because they were not approved by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), the Consumers’ Foundation said Monday.

The 12 randomly selected products could be subject to a fine of between NT$600,000 (US$20,221) and NT$25 million for violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act, said Wu Jung-ta (吳榮達), the foundation’s secretary-general, at a press briefing.

Hand sanitizers that claim to be antibacterial, bacteriostatic, or have sterilization properties all must be approved by the MOHW, said Taipei Medical University Professor Mai Fu-der (麥富德), the foundation’s deputy inspector-general.

Despite failing to meet the requirement, many hand sanitizer brands have made their way onto the market to cater to the huge demand for such products to keep COVID-19 at bay, he said.

Out of the 12 hand sanitizers, one also made hugely exaggerated claims when it said it was 99-percent effective in preventing influenza, E. coli and staphylococcus aureus, Mai said.

Unapproved hand sanitizers may use industrial-grade alcohol that could carry chemicals that cause blindness, swelling and even death, Mai warned.

He recommended that rather than buying hand sanitizer online, consumers can make their own hand sanitizer by mixing eight parts medical-grade alcohol with two parts boiled water that has cooled down.

The best way for people to prevent viruses, however, is to wash their hands with soap and water, Mai said.

“Actually, hand sanitizers with 75 percent alcohol are already effective, but many manufacturers put in tea tree, rose, or lavender essential oils to give it more of a selling point. But from a consumer’s perspective, all you need is a solution that has 75 percent alcohol,” Mai said.