The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an import alert for all gel disinfectants from Mexico for possible traces of methanol in the products. This is the first time the FDA has issued a nationwide import alert for any type of product. "The agency has seen a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products from Mexico that were labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but tested positive for methanol contamination," it said in a statement.

The U.S. health authority said that after analysis, gel sanitizers imported from Mexico found that 84% of the samples from April through December 2020 did not comply with FDA regulations. "More than half of the samples were found to contain toxic ingredients, including methanol and/or 1-propanol, at dangerous levels. In most cases, methanol is not listed as an ingredient on the product label," it warned.

It even argued that methanol can be toxic when absorbed through the skin and deadly when ingested, so "it is not an acceptable ingredient in hand sanitizers or other medications." According to the FDA, this import alert means that alcohol-based hand sanitizers from Mexico are subject to increased scrutiny and their shipments may be detained.

"Consumer use of hand sanitizers has increased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, especially when soap and water are not accessible, and the availability of poor-quality products with dangerous and unacceptable ingredients will not be tolerated," said Judy McMeekin, FDA's commissioner of Regulatory Affairs.

She also said she will work with authorities, manufacturers, and the Mexican government to ensure that potentially dangerous products are not distributed. She added that methanol disinfectants are a serious safety concern, and can cause blindness, cardiac effects, and central nervous system damage or death.