FDA Issues A Warning To Gojo Industries—The Parent Company Of Purell Hand Sanitizer

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In a warning letter penned by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sent to the parent company of the Purell, warned Gojo Industries to stop making false health claims about its hand sanitizer product.  In specific, that Purell claims the use of their Healthcare Advanced line of hand sanitizers is able to eliminate such viruses as the flu, Ebola, and MRSA.

In the letter that the FDA sent to Purell’s marketing department, the agency calls out the false marketing claims.  The FDA stated: “These statements, made in the context of the Frequently Asked Questions section, clearly indicate your suggestion that Purell Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizers are intended for reducing and preventing the disease from the Ebola virus, norovirus, and influenza.  As such, the statements are evidence of your product's intended uses."

Amongst the FAQs included on the Purell site, there is a note that “the FDA does not allow hand sanitizer brands to make viral claims."  However, Purell does go on to explain how the virus for influenza is an enveloped one, and as such, can be killed and inactivated by the very alcohol contained in most hand sanitizers.

It is worth mentioning that a study previously published in the Journal of Hospital Infections, in 2018, produced data that indicated that ethanol, at an 80 percent concentration, can prove to be highly effective against a total of 21 different enveloped viruses--the same ethanol that is present in Purell hand sanitizers.

Then, in 2019 a study was conducted that looked at those disinfectants that were ethanol-based.  It revealed that the disinfectant's ability to perform effectively again influenza A virus (IVA) indicated that is actual ability to combat IAV in mucus was significantly reduced. 

In comparison, this study showed that with the simple washing of hands for 30 minutes worked more effectively than the four minutes that the hand sanitizer took to neutralize and eliminate the flu virus.

The letter also called out the claims made by Purell that their products, in particular, “are effective in reducing illness or disease-related student and teacher absenteeism.”  The FDA feels that this statement goes a little far in their claims of a topical antiseptic.

An infectious disease specialist with the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Peter Gulick, emphasized that the age-old method of using soap and water to wash your hands is still considered the best way of preventing yourself from getting sick.

Will this news of Purell's claims of being the best for preventing illness being a little exaggerated have an effect on the company’s sales?