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Purell faces lawsuits over claim it prevents illness by killing germs

The manufacturer of the most recognizable hand sanitizer brand in the U.S. is facing multiple lawsuits amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Purell’s maker, GOJO Industries Inc., is facing three major class action lawsuits over its claim that its product prevents illnesses by killing germs.

Bloomberg reports that a federal judge in Brooklyn is scheduled to hold a status conference on the litigation in late June.

The lawsuits follow a January letter from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning that the language on their branding, which claims it prevents disease like Ebola and the flu, is misleading.

GOJO said in response to the FDA letter in January that the 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,” the statement said, adding that the company was making changes to its website and social media accounts in response to the FDA warning.

Two of the suits filed in federal court in Los Angeles and New York are seeking orders barring the company from making unsubstantiated health claims and requesting unspecified payments.

One of the lawsuits, filed by four people in March in federal court for the Northeastern District of Ohio, came as retailers and hospitals scrambled to obtain enough of their products. 

Sales of hand sanitizer have surged amid the pandemic, with some retailers limiting the amount of products customers could buy at a time.

Kay Van Wey, a Dallas attorney who has represented individuals harmed by medical malpractice and defective drugs, told Bloomberg that class action lawsuits can be “a good consumer safety tool.”

“Individuals are able to band together to call out deceptive or fraudulent business practices,” Van Wey said. “Even though each individual consumer may not have incurred large damages, the collective damages usually amount to a figure that makes it unprofitable for corporations to profit off of their deceit.”

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