Market flooded with unapproved sanitisers
A Sunday Gleaner probe in downtown Kingston, Half-Way Tree in St Andrew and May Pen in Clarendon has found that a flood of unapproved hand sanitisers are on shelves for sale to unsuspecting members of the public, who could be putting themselves in danger as the use of these products increases as the island battles the coronavirus pandemic.
Last Thursday, a Sunday Gleaner team visited 10 retail operators in downtown Kingston, the main commercial district in the island, enquiring about the sale of sanitisers by each.
The sanitisers shown by nine of the stores – some long-established trading centres – were not on the approved list published by the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority (NCRA) on September 10.
Most managers were unavailable for interviews, and in one instance, when asked why an unapproved product was being sold, the store manager insisted that the sanitiser met the alcohol threshold of 62 per cent.
“It meets the level. That is what is necessary,” she said, when further questioned.
As is now widely practised, most of the stores had an employee stationed at the entrance to apply an alcohol-based solution to the hands of potential customers wishing to enter.
Most of the bottles were unlabelled and their handlers, at least those who would answer, were not sure of the contents they were spraying.
The instructions were firm, however: no spray, no entrance.
It was a similar case on Friday in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, another major Corporate Area shopping district. Several stores, including pharmacies in plazas along Constant Spring Road, were selling products that were not NCRA-approved.
Not much was different in May Pen, Clarendon, where bottles were unlabelled, staff unwilling to speak to their contents and stores were also selling unapproved products.
Problems to users
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 NCRA’s latest list contains 32 approved hand sanitisers, with Jamaica and China dominating as the places of origin. But the agency said it has identified 74 brands in the domestic market with 90 samples collected since March, when Jamaica confirmed its first COVID-19 case.
More than 50, 000 products have been seized to date for failure to meet the requirements.
Among the unapproved handrubs seen and bought by The Sunday Gleaner were products from Mexico, China and Jamaica.
The NCRA said it has been working “assiduously” with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to monitor importers and local manufacturers to boost the 48 per cent compliance rate with the established standards.
“The NCRA will continue to withdraw from sale, detain, seize and/or condemn non-compliant products to ensure the health and safety of the public,” the authority said in a statement on Friday.
There was no definitive answer to the question of the challenges it may be facing with monitoring and enforcement, but the entity said those issues were being treated as a priority because of “high level of new entrants to the market”.
“There are inspectors islandwide who have been monitoring retail outlets and ports of entry for compliance of alcohol-based hand sanitisers with the standard. They collect samples for testing and conduct registration assessments,” the NCRA said.
All manufacturers, importers, distributors and other entities engaged in the production or trade of alcohol-based hand sanitisers are expected to comply with the requirements of the Jamaican Standard Specification for Instant Hand Sanitizers, which was first published in May 2020.
List of compliant hand sanitisers as at September 10, 2020
Brand Name Country of Origin
Body Philosophy - Advanced UK
Body Philosophy - Honolulu Midnight & Passion fruit UK
Body Philosophy - Top Care UK
Clean hands China
Clean X Gel USA
Fimi Naturals Jamaica
JK Victoria - Aloe China
JK Victoria - Lavender China
Lovali- Pure Clean Aloe Vera China
Lovali- Pure Clean Aloe Vera Gel China
Lovali- Pure Clean Lemon China
Lovali- Pure Clean Lemon Gel China
Nurses Choice Lemony Delight Jamaica
Ochi Soaps Jamaica
One for All Jamaica
Smart- Lemon Scent Jamaica
Ultra Care Jamaica
Ultra Care - Aloe Vera & Vitamin E Jamaica