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4e Manufacturers North America Hit with Lawsuit Over Hand Sanitizer Containing Methanol

4e Brands North America was just hit with a lawsuit over its Blumen hand sanitizer, a product that the FDA said contains methanol.

A lawsuit was recently filed against 4e Brands North America, a company based in Texas that “distributes hand sanitizers found to contain toxic methanol and linked to at least one death nationally.” The suit was filed in St. Joseph County and is seeking penalties against the company. The hand sanitizer the company sold is Blumen hand sanitizer and “stems from findings by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that two varieties of the product contained methanol, or wood alcohol, which is poisonous and can be fatal if ingested.”

FDA Logo; image courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org

The suit was filed in St. Joseph Circuit Court and is seeking class-action status to represent anyone who may have purchased or used the Blumen hand sanitizer in Indiana. Specifically, the suit alleges 4e Brands violated Indiana’s Products Liability Act and Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. When commenting on the case, Douglas Sakaguchi, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said:

“It’s about protecting the public from products with toxic, poisonous chemicals…especially when those chemicals are hidden by lack of being listed in the ingredients.”

When the FDA conducted a test of hand sanitizers to determine which ones may contain methanol, the agency found that, along with methanol, “two varieties of Blumen hand sanitizer contained less than the advertised amount of ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, which is supposed to be the active ingredient in the product…The varieties were advertised as 70% ethanol.” Eventually, the FDA “added 32 varieties of hand sanitizer made for 4e Brands to a list of products that consumers should avoid, and imposed an import ban on the products, which are made in Mexico.” A voluntary recall was even issued. 

In a statement about the recall, 4e Brands said:

“Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to recall all lots due to potential contamination of methanol. We are very sorry that this series of sanitizers did not meet our quality standards, and we are undertaking an investigation and working hard to rectify the situation.”

According to the lawsuit, Blumen hand sanitizers were distributed across the state, including Costco stores. One of the lead plaintiffs, Melody Callantine from Osceola, purchased “a 33.8-ounce bottle at Costco to protect her family against COVID-19.” In the complaint, she alleges her children, ages 10 and six, “experienced headaches and vomiting after using the sanitizer.” For those who don’t know, methanol can be fatal when ingested and is toxic when it is absorbed through the skin. Prolonged exposure may cause nausea, headaches, blurred vision, seizures, and blindness. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, “illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths related to hand sanitizers have been on the rise,” according to the FDA. Already, one death has been linked to Blumen sanitizer.

So far, the FDA has added 160 varieties of hand sanitizer to its recall list, and 32 of those were distributed by 4e brands. Sakaguchi said:

“It’s particularly important, during these pandemic times, that manufacturers are careful…because there’s a rush of people who want to be clean and healthy and are going to use these products more than normal.”

Sources:

Lawsuit in St. Joseph County targets hand sanitizer with toxic chemical

FDA list of recalled hand sanitizers balloons to more than 100

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