WASHINGTON (TEGNA) - The FDA is asking alcohol hand sanitizer manufacturers to add denatured alcohol to the products they make so there is a bitter taste to make them "unpalatable to people, especially young children."
The agency says it understands manufacturers are choosing not to use denatured alcohol for economic and business reasons, but is asking them to consider this recommendation to improve safety.
“We appreciate industry’s willingness to help supply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the market to meet the increasing demand for these products and are grateful for their efforts,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn.
The Commissioner went on to say, “with this increased supply comes our continued mission to ensure safety of these products."
According to the FDA, analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Association of Poison Control Centers, calls related to hand sanitizer increased by 79% compared to March of last year.
Dr. Hahn said “hand sanitizers are not proven to treat COVID-19, and like other products meant for external use, are not for ingestion, inhalation, or intravenous use."
President Donald Trump created controversy last Thursday when he noted that researchers were looking at the effects of disinfectants on the virus and wondered aloud if they could be injected into people, saying the virus “does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.” It led disinfectant maker Lysol to issue a warning to not inject or ingest such products.
When asked about it the next day in the Oval Office, the president said, "When I was asking a sarcastic — a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside, but it does kill it, and it would kill it on the hands and that would make things much better. That was done in the form of a sarcastic question to a reporter.”
On April 17, the FDA alerted the public to a federal injunction issues by a judge against preventing the sale of chlorine dioxide products equivalent to bleach to treat COVID-19. A church was accused of selling products containing chlorine dioxide calling it a "Miracle Mineral Solution."
The FDA said in the release, "Americans expect and deserve proven medical treatments and today’s action is a forceful reminder that the FDA will use its legal authorities to quickly stop those who have proven to continuously threaten the health of the American public."
Consumers, distributors or manufacturers who have questions for the FDA are advised to email them at COVID-19-Hand-Sanitizers@fda.hhs.gov to speak directly with the agency.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.