By Chito Chavez
Environmental watchdog EcoWaste Coalition on Tuesday asked government authorities to ensure that only registered alcohol and sanitizers are sold in the market in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last March 20, the Quezon City-based group alerted the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) about the unlawful sale in Paco, Manila of an inadequately labeled and un-notified hand sanitizer, which has been subsequently referred to the agency’s Regulatory Enforcement Unit for action.
With this, EcoWaste Coalition also 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 un-notified 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 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/un-notified products during this time when a state of calamity has been declared due to COVID-19 threat in the country.”
The 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/un-notified 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.
Also, the group wrote to the FDA last March 12 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.