The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to the makers of Purell hand sanitizer, telling the company to stop marketing the product as effective in preventing Ebola, the flu and more.
The advisory comes as the global spread of the new coronavirus outbreak is fueling worldwide anxiety.
The warning letter to parent company GOJO Industries, published on the FDA's website last week, lists examples from Purell websites and social media accounts that claim the hand sanitizer "may be effective against viruses" such as Ebola and influenza.
These claims "clearly indicate" a suggestion that the hand sanitizers "are intended for reducing or preventing disease from the Ebola virus, norovirus, and influenza," the FDA letter states.
"However, 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," it added.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using hand sanitizer only when soap and water are not available.
The government agency recommends hand-washing often to prevent the flu, stating on its website that "washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations."
"If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol," it adds, noting, however that "sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs" and other caveats.
Samantha Williams, the corporate communications senior director at Gojo told ABC News in a statement that the company took "immediate action to respond to FDA claim requirements" after receiving the warning letter.
"The letter was related to some of our marketing around PURELL Hand Sanitizer on GOJO.com and through our social media platforms," she added. "It is important to emphasize that the FDA letter was not related to the safety or quality of our products, or our manufacturing processes. Our products can and should continue to be used as part of good hand hygiene practice, to reduce germs."
Williams said adhering to FDA guidance "while advancing and sharing the latest hygiene science to help improve public health" has always been its intention and "uncompromising integrity is a core value" of the company.
The statement continued: "It is our responsibility to ensure that we comply with all requirements of FDA regulations and federal law, and we take that responsibility very seriously. To that end, we have begun updating relevant website and other digital content as directed by the FDA and are taking steps to prevent a recurrence."