Coronavirus: Thousands of liters of dangerous hand sanitizer seized by EU body

Harmeet Gray, 57, sanitizes his hands after traveling from New Orleans to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Atlanta, Georgia, US November 23, 2020. (Reuters/Chris Aluka Berry)

The European Union’s anti-fraud body said almost 140,000 liters of dangerous hand sanitizer have been seized across the region since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) said Tuesday the product originated from Turkey and was contaminated with dangerous levels of methanol, a substance likely to create headaches, blurred vision and that can sometimes lead to blindness when used in hand sanitizers.

OLAF started the operation in August after Danish authorities passed on information relating to the seizure of 6,000 liters of hand sanitizer from Turkey. The anti-fraud body then relayed the information to all 27 EU member states and OLAF spotted a suspicious shipment to Ireland at the end of September.

The cargo was stopped in Dublin and analysis confirmed the presence of “unacceptably high levels of methanol,” said OLAF, adding that further investigation led to the discovery of other stocks of the same sanitizer, while a second shipment was also contaminated.

The investigation later established that several companies based in the EU had ordered hand sanitizers from the same Turkish manufacturer operating under various names.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, OLAF has been active in fighting illicit material related to COVID-19 such as counterfeit and substandard face masks, rapid tests, hand sanitizers,” said OLAF director-general Ville Itälä. “These products should protect people, not harm them. OLAF investigations have detected over 900 companies involved so far, and the list is growing.”

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Last Update: Tuesday, 15 December 2020 KSA 17:03 - GMT 14:03
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