Nova Scotia

Child safety expert warns against hand sanitizer packaged like snacks

The injury-prevention program at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax is warning parents against a hand-sanitizer product that looks similar to a children's squeezable snack pouch.

'[This] could easily be mistaken for an edible product'

Pouches containing hand sanitizer that look similar to squeeze pouches for applesauce, yogurt and other liquid snacks have been spotted for sale in Halifax. (Child Safety Link)

The injury-prevention program at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax is warning parents against hand sanitizer packaged like a children's snack.

The Smart Care brand products are in plastic 25-millilitre pouches with a small cap and nozzle. They look similar to a squeeze pouch that would contain liquid snacks like yogurt or applesauce.

Characters from popular children's shows and movies, like Barbie and Paw Patrol, are depicted on the packaging.

"This can easily find its way into a young child's hand, no problem, and could easily be mistaken for an edible product," said Chantal Walsh, a health promotion specialist with Child Safety Link.

While there are warnings on the packaging advising parents to supervise children under six, along with "do not eat" on the front, Walsh said these products are still an "alarming issue."

There's also a small plastic tab that Walsh said could be a choking hazard.

The sanitizer pouches have an alcohol level that would be "dangerous" to small children if ingested. Walsh said that could mean internal or external irritation or pose a risk for something "more fatal."

Smart Care was one of more than 50 products included in Health Canada's evolving list of hand sanitizers being recalled.

Meredith Schneider, a spokesperson with Ashtel Studios Inc. which owns the Smart Care brand, said product safety is a top priority.

"Once the concern about the packaging was brought to our attention we immediately started the process to remove this product from the market," Schneider said in an emailed statement to CBC News on Wednesday.

Schneider also said the sanitizer recalled on Health Canada's website under the name "Smart Care" is not their product. A company named R&D Technical Solutions Ltd. used the brand name without permission and legal action is underway.

Walsh said the product was first brought to her attention by a colleague who saw it being marketed in Ontario, but it has since been spotted for sale in Halifax.

With parents starting back-to-school shopping in a time when there are so many new health recommendations, particularly around clean hands, Walsh said parents with young children should refrain from sending them to school with a supply of sanitizer in their backpacks.

"You can go over all the rules or all the warnings … it may not be as easy to trust or know that they're using them effectively [at school]," she said.