Department of Education learned of hand sanitiser recall two days before it alerted schools

Department of Education learned of hand sanitiser recall two days before it alerted schools

The hand sanitiser in question, Virapro, contains methanol rather than ethannol, which can be harmful. It has been removed from shelves. File Picture: Pexels

The Department of Education has said that it was told that a range of hand sanitisers being used in schools had been recalled due to public health fears on Tuesday, two days before it alerted schools.

However, the Department said in a statement on Thursday that the notice from Agriculture had come by phone, not formally.

A statement issued this evening outlined the department's timeline of the incident, which has seen Virapro removed from shelves. 

The sanitiser contains methanol, rather than ethanol, which can be harmful.

"The Department of Education was formally notified in the afternoon of Thursday 22 October that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) had removed ViraPro hand sanitiser (PCS 100409) from the product register.

"There was immediate follow up within the Department of Education and contact made with DAFM, in order to secure more details and that work continued all afternoon and into the late evening to establish the facts in relation to the product concerned; the reasons for the product recall, the laboratory testing results and an understanding of the public health concerns.

"As soon as the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine provided the Department of Education with the information and its formal statement, the Department of Education issued an advisory notification to schools and to media.

"The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) had contacted the Education Procurement Service by phone on the afternoon of Tuesday 20 October.

"They indicated that the certification of a product range included on the Education Sector PPE multi-supplier agreement was to be revoked.

"Details of the issues and public health concerns arising were not available at that point and DAFM indicated that further information and formal notification would follow. 

"The Education Procurement Service sought an update on Wednesday and it was indicated that formal notification would be provided as soon as possible."

In the Dáil, Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said that tests had indicated that the sanitiser did not meet standards on October 8 and was withdrawn by his Department eight days later. 

He said that he first learned of the issue on Thursday.

"Department officials took samples of batches of products at different storage locations over the period of September 30 to October 2.

"Preliminary results were received on October 8. While these results had to be viewed as indicative only, they gave sufficient reason to believe this product should not be released onto the market, subject to further investigation."

The company was ordered on October 16 to retain its stocks and on October 20 Virapro was removed from the Department’s biocide register.

Mr McConalogue said that the public should have been told last week.

"Having reviewed the matter today, I'm very clear it would have been much more appropriate for my department to have followed up with a public notice and communications with other Government departments immediately upon issuing the withdrawal notice to the company on October 16."

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