All school sanitisers being reviewed, as HSE confirms one million ViraPro units distributed

As questions remain over the handling of the ViraPro hand sanitiser recall during the week, the Department of Education has confirmed that all biocidal sanitisation products available to schools through the procurement process are being reviewed
All school sanitisers being reviewed, as HSE confirms one million ViraPro units distributed

Viapro was recalled after it emerged that the hand sanitiser contained methanol instead of ethanol, which may cause dermatitis, irritation, and headaches through prolonged use. Picture: Liam McBurney/ PA

The Department of Education has confirmed that all hand sanitisers and biocidal products in schools are being reviewed, while the HSE has confirmed that one million units of the recalled ViraPro hand sanitiser were distributed across the health service.

As questions remain over the handling of the ViraPro hand sanitiser recall during the week, the Department of Education has confirmed that all biocidal sanitisation products available to schools through the procurement process are being reviewed in association with the Department of Agriculture.

“The Virapro products and all products from the supplier have all been removed from our multi-party supplier agreement,” a spokesperson for the Department of Eductaion added.

The move follows the recall of ViraPro late on Thursday night after it emerged that the hand sanitiser contained methanol instead of ethanol, which may cause dermatitis, irritation, and headaches through prolonged use.

The Department of Education said it knew 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 it had only been alerted by phone, not formally, by the Department of Agriculture about issues with the sanitiser.

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

Separately the HSE has confirmed that it had received three million units of ViraPro products and distributed more than one million units across the health service.

The HSE has established a product recall team to establish how much ViraPro product needs to be removed and replaced and has also placed two million units of the recalled product into quarantine.

The health service said it acted immediately after being notified about the recall on Thursday.

“The HSE moved immediately to deal with this matter. Stocks held centrally had already been placed in quarantine. 

"A Product Recall Notice issued on 23 Oct 2020 to the entire healthcare system through established protocols via the management line. This Product Recall Notice is cascaded from each of the national functions to local services,” a spokesperson for the HSE said.

“In addition, a dedicated recall team has been established to co-ordinate the collection of product currently in the healthcare system,” they added.

Earlier, the HSE confirmed to the Irish Examiner that it entered into a purchase agreement with PFG Brand Attraction EU Ltd earlier this year for the supply of alcohol hand gel, hand disinfection gel, and hand sanitiser.

Freedom of Information documents seen by this newspaper detailing the HSE’s Covid-19 expenditure show that it paid PFG Brand Attraction EU Ltd €9,160,046 from February to April this year.

The HSE did not respond to queries put to it about how much of this spend relates to the recalled hand sanitiser.

 The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue  Picture: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue  Picture: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography.

On Friday Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said preliminary tests carried out two weeks ago on the hand sanitiser showed that it did not meet compliance standards.

In the Dáil, Mr McConalogue said that preliminary tests had indicated, on October 8, that the sanitiser did not meet standards and it was then withdrawn by his department eight days later.

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

"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," said Mr McConalogue.

ViraPro was supplied to both the HSE and schools by Irish distributor PFG Brand Attraction EU Ltd, trading as Portfolio Group. The company’s website also says it delivered to the NHS in Northern Ireland.

The company also owns and trades as ViraPro, which is manufactured in Turkey. As well as sanitiser, the company also distributes masks, visors, and gloves.

The Department of Education said the supplier and all its products "were removed from the education sector procurement agreement on Thursday".

Late last night the Department of Agriculture issued a statement in which it said that during its investigation into sanitiser issue it emerged that a number of other sanitary products under the Virapro brand were not on the Department’s approved list for biocidal products.

"The company concerned has been advised to withdraw all of these products from the market.

"The Department is therefore advising, on a precautionary basis, that all sanitary products in the Virapro range should be returned to the supplier.

Members of the public are advised to stop using these products because they are not authorised for use," it said.

"All sanitary products containing biocides must have a clearly visible PCS or an IE/BPA or EU number on the label."

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