Target has been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit that alleges the retailer’s claim that its store-brand up & up hand sanitizer “kills 99.99% of germs” is not backed by any reliable scientific studies.
Echoing recent lawsuits filed against other hand sanitizer makers, the case out of California cites a January 2020 letter sent by the FDA to Purell-maker GOJO Industries concerning its representations that the alcohol-based product can kill 99.99 percent of germs and prevent against the flu and other viruses. According to the lawsuit, the FDA informed GOJO, whose Purell product the case notes Target explicitly compares its own hand sanitizer to, that the agency was 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 plaintiff argues that given the similarity of Target’s hand sanitizer to Purell, particularly in that both utilize 70-percent ethyl alcohol as their active ingredient, the FDA’s warning letter pertains to defendants Target Corporation and Target Brands, Inc. in equal measure. Despite the unequivocal warning from the FDA, Target, the lawsuit alleges, represents on its hand sanitizer labeling that the product “kills 99.99% of germs.” As a result, consumers have been misled into thinking Target’s less expensive in-house private label product is as effective as Purell when it comes to preventing disease or infection, including from the flu and novel coronavirus, the lawsuit says.
“By making such a representation and by comparing it to Purell on its labeling, the Hand Sanitizer implicitly represents that its product is as effective as Purell’s, addresses the consumer’s concerns of catching the flu or other viruses and suggests that by using the Hand Sanitizer, the consumer will no longer contract such a disease,” the lawsuit reads. “Target uses indirect statements to give an unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading impression to the consumer that the Hand Sanitizer can prevent the flu and other viruses.”
According to the suit, the plaintiff would not have bought Target’s up & up hand sanitizer absent the retailer’s apparent misrepresentations. The lawsuit was filed on the same day the FDA issued two guidance documents aimed at improving manufacturer flexibility and boosting the production of alcohol-based hand sanitizers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit looks to represent consumers in California who bought Target’s up & up hand sanitizer, with and/or without aloe, in any size for personal use within the last four years.
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