Commissioner's blog: Don’t mistake hand sanitiser for food or drink

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We all know that clean hands are one of the best ways to guard against viruses, so it’s little surprise that hand sanitiser has become a must-have item during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

With many households and schools now using hand sanitiser as part of their daily routines, it’s important to remember these products should be treated with extra caution especially around children. 

Most alcohol-based sanitisers contain upwards of 60 per cent alcohol content, meaning just a couple of mouthfuls can be enough to poison a child.

Poison centres across Australia have seen an increase in adverse reports involving these products, and in WA we are aware of at least one incident of a child ingesting hand sanitiser at school.

Given these products are packaged in a range of container types, including plastic bottles with pop-top lids, there is greater potential for them to be mistaken for food or drink.

For this reason, Consumer Protection has joined the ACCC in working with suppliers to make sure hand sanitiser is not sold in packaging that resembles food or drink bottles, including releasing new guidance that can be accessed at:

Consumers who use their own bottles at in-store hand sanitiser refill stations should clearly mark their bottles to avoid confusion with any other household or food items.

When buying hand sanitiser, check the label for any ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction to you or your family. If the label fails to list any ingredients, you should report the product to the ACCC.

Hand sanitiser should always be kept out of reach of children, and should only be used by children under adult supervision. As a highly flammable product, it should also be kept away from any type of open flame.

If ingestion is suspected, call the Poisons Information Centre immediately on 13 11 26 (24 hours a day) to seek urgent medical advice.

Consumer Protection
Media release
26 Jun 2020

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