Why are sanitizers being recalled?

At the beginning of February, Health Canada recalled 15 hand sanitizers adding to a list of over 100 products that the agency says may pose a risk to Canadians. Unfortunately, that list seems to be growing as a result of surging demand for sanitizers during the pandemic and companies that are rushing or aren’t fully equipped to meet it.

A hand sanitizer might be recalled by Health Canada because:

  • It contains (or may contain) unapproved ingredients
  • Improper labelling
  • Inaccurate risk statements
  • Incomplete product testing
  • Faulty packaging

Last year Health Canada changed its rules, temporarily allowing  manufacturers to use technical-grade ethanol in their hand sanitizers in order to keep with demand.

Technical-grade ethanol contains more impurities than pharmaceutical- or food-grade ethanol, so manufacturers that use it have to get it from a Health Canada-authorized supplier and include additional warnings on their label, including to avoid using it for children and around open wounds.

Some sanitizers were recalled because they contained unapproved denaturants. A common one is ethyl acetate which is sometimes used in glues, nail polish removers, and in the decaffeination process of teas and coffees. The frequent use of sanitizers containing ethyl acetate can cause skin irritation and cracking. Another is methanol, an alcohol similar to ethanol. Overusing sanitizers with methanol can cause dermatitis, eye and upper respiratory irritation, and headaches, which isn’t the case with higher quality ethanols.

Other products were recalled because they included 1-propanol. That molecule is often used in medical-grade disinfectants and can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as dry skin, drowsiness and headaches.

Still other sanitizers were recalled because they didn’t include the ingredients they claimed to, or contained them in different proportions than their formula indicated. As a result, they were not as effective at killing bacteria and viruses—another health risk.

Many hand sanitizers are, of course, safe and effective by Health Canada’s standards, but it’s important to be aware of those that aren’t. Check Health Canada’s recall list and be sure to discard sanitizers that have been recalled.

Ethisan’s formula was the second in the country to be approved by Health Canada after the COVID-19 pandemic began its spread across our country. All of our products include no more than seven ingredients, the active one being food-grade, USP Canadian ethanol. It’s the highest quality ethanol available to any hand sanitizer manufacturer.


Learn more here.