A series of individual and class-action lawsuits have been filed against GOJO Industries, claiming that the manufacturer of Purell made unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of its hand sanitizer.
The latest suit, issued March 13 in the federal court for the Northern District of Ohio, specifically identifies Purell’s marketing claim that it “kills 99.9% of illness-causing germs” as misleading and seeks damages for all consumers who have purchased Purell who “relied upon the product’s packaging and marketing materials.”
In a February statement following the first lawsuits, GOJO CEO Carey Jaros called the complaints “without merit.”
On January 17, the Food and Drug Administration issued a letter to GOJO, warning that the language used on websites and social media accounts used to promote Purell was misleading. Specifically, the FDA warned that Purell, legally considered an over-the-counter drug, shouldn’t be marketed alongside claims that it reduces infections.
“FDA is currently not aware of any adequate and well-controlled studies demonstrating that killing or decreasing the number of bacteria or viruses on the skin by a certain magnitude produces a corresponding clinical reduction in infection or disease caused by such bacteria or virus,” the letter read. It also cautioned that citing specific diseases like the Ebola virus in Purell marketing could be misleading as well, since Purell is not intended to target any singular illness.
According to a statement from GOJO spokesperson Samantha Williams, the Akron, Ohio-based health company “took immediate action” following the January 17 letter and immediately began updating its digital marketing and website to comply with the FDA’s letter.
The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a run on hand sanitizers and disinfectants, including Purell and other GOJO products.