Virapro hand sanitiser: NI health service checks after Irish safety recall

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Tests were carried out on the sanitiser by the Irish Department of Agriculture

Health officials are looking into whether hand sanitiser used by the NHS in NI is affected by a safety recall in the Republic of Ireland.

Virapro hand sanitiser is being withdrawn from sale in the Republic on the Irish government's instructions.

It warned prolonged use of the product may cause skin problems, eye and respiratory irritation and headaches.

Stormont's Department of Health said checks are being carried to see if any stock delivered to NI is affected.

It said the Northern Ireland's Health and Social Care Board "has not received any contact regarding recall".

The Virapro safety warning was issued by the Irish Department of Agriculture after it carried out tests on the sanitiser.

The tests showed that some of the product on sale contained methanol rather than ethanol.

The department stated that prolonged use of the sanitiser "may cause dermatitis, eye irritation, upper respiratory system irritation and headaches".

Orders delivered to NI

As a result, it has removed Virapro hand sanitiser from Ireland's biocidal product register, which outlines products that are legally allowed to be sold in Ireland.

"This product may not remain on the market or be made available for use," the department said in a statement on Thursday night.

"Members of the public are advised to stop using this sanitiser with immediate effect."

It instructed the Dublin-based firm which sells the item to begin "an immediate recall of all product".

Image source, RTÉ

Trade publications earlier this year reported that during the early stages of the pandemic, when there were worldwide shortages of hand sanitiser, Virapro delivered orders to both the Health Service Executive in the Republic of Ireland and the NHS in Northern Ireland.

At the time, the Dublin-based firm said it had to charter extra planes in order to fulfil both orders.

Stormont's Department of Health confirmed to BBC News NI that "the Virapro product has been procured for use in Northern Ireland".

In other Covid-19 developments on Friday:

"At this stage we are unable to confirm if any product supplied is affected," its spokesman said.

"At this point Health and Social Care Northern Ireland has not received any contact regarding recall and is initiating contact with its supplier to establish if any product supplied to Northern Ireland is affected."

He added: "If product used in NI is found to be affected, then as with any product found to be defective or sub-standard it will be withdrawn from use."

'Product sealed off'

Virapro is based in Raheny in County Dublin and its hand sanitiser is used widely in schools in the Republic of Ireland.

In a statement, the company said it was "very concerned" by the issue and was "grateful to the department for its diligence".

"Following discussions with the department, albeit at the time their concerns had not been confirmed, nonetheless we immediately sealed the product off in our warehouses to prevent any distribution of this batch."

​The firm said it was currently contacting its customers and "providing a full replacement for that product".​

"We have been in contact with the manufacturer who is also investigating the matter," it added.