Hands off: FDA tells Purell to halt claims its hand sanitizer strong enough to kill Ebola, flu

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning an Ohio-based company about its marketing claims for its hand sanitizer products.

In a Jan. 17 warning letter to Carey Jaros, the president and CEO of Gojo Industries Inc., the USDA is disputing the company's claims that its Purell hand sanitizer may be strong enough to kill the Ebola virus and germs that cause the flu, The FDA is disputing claims made in advertising and on social media, and also under the company's "frequently asked questions" portion of the Purell website.

“These statements ... clearly indicate your suggestion that Purell Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizers are intended for reducing or preventing disease from the Ebola virus, norovirus, and influenza,” the FDA wrote in its warning letter. “As such, the statements are evidence of your products’ intended uses. However, FDA is currently not aware of any adequate and well-controlled studies demonstrating that killing or decreasing the number of bacteria or viruses on the skin by a certain magnitude produces a corresponding clinical reduction in infection or disease caused by such bacteria or virus.”

In a statement, Gojo Industries said the company’s hand sanitizer had never been tested against the Ebola virus, and it would take action to meet FDA requirements.

"On January 17, GOJO received a communication in the form of a standard warning letter from the FDA. The letter was not related to the safety and efficacy of our products, our manufacturing processes, or product quality," the statement said. "The letter was related to some of our marketing around Purell Hand Sanitizer on GOJO.com and through social media. GOJO will be responding to the FDA and we are taking actions to meet the FDA claim requirements. These actions will include updates to GOJO.com and other digital content. There is no impact to the products we sell."

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