Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Health Ministry issues warning to hand sanitiser importers

Published:Monday | September 28, 2020 | 8:47 PM

The Ministry of Health and Wellness says entities that want to import alcohol-based hand sanitisers into Jamaica, must first have an approved permit in hand from the Standards & Regulation Division of the Ministry, before the supplier ships the product.

This comes after a Sunday Gleaner probe in downtown Kingston, Half-Way Tree in St Andrew and May Pen in Clarendon earlier this month, found that a flood of unapproved hand sanitisers are on shelves for sale to unsuspecting members of the public. 

There has been an increase in the demand for hand sanitisers because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As of September 21, the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority's (NCRA) latest list contains 43 approved hand sanitisers, with Jamaica and China dominating as the places of origin.

The Ministry says it has noted the significant increase in the number of entities importing hand sanitisers without the requisite approval. It said it is advising prospective importers that hand sanitisers or alcohol for local manufacture, must first contact the Standards and Regulation Division for guidance.

"Once the requirements have been satisfied, the applicant submits an application using the Permit Application for Psychotropic, Narcotics and Precursors Form, MHFD 19 (yellow colour), available from the Division, to obtain permission to import. Shipments which arrive in the island prior to a permit being approved are not guaranteed clearance from the ports, and risk being seized and destroyed," the Ministry said in a statement this evening.

In July, a Manchester man suffered extensive damage to his hands as a result of the use of a hand sanitiser he accepted at a store or stores in the Manchester capital, Mandeville.

According to the 48-year-old civil servant, the doctor told him that in recent weeks, he had seen several similar cases in the Manchester capital, but his was among the worst.

Dermatologist Dr Arusha Campbell-Chambers said the general quality of the products and their continuous use could pose problems to users.

“Repeated use of soap, other detergents, alcohol and alcohol-based sanitising gels can cause dryness, itching, redness, blisters and cracks or fissuring of the skin,” she said.

“The consequences of cracked or broken skin can include an increased risk of infections of the skin. This has a worse impact on persons who suffer from sensitive skin, including those who have already conditions like eczema or dermatitis, where their skin may already be dry, inflamed and/or cracked,” she added further.

The Ministry says that it is the permit issued by them only, that authorises the Customs Department to release a shipment of hand sanitiser to the importer. Hand sanitisers seen on the market that were not approved by the Ministry may also be seized.

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