A mobile court led by RAB 3's executive magistrate handed down three months of imprisonment to the proprietor of Reza Food Products Limited, and fined him Tk5 lakhs, in the capital's Khilgaon on June 2 – for producing and selling fake hand sanitiser.
Though his license is for producing food his company was producing and selling hand sanitiser – without approval from the authorities.
The company claimed its product offered one hundred percent protection against viruses, however, the product was free of isopropyl alcohol, the major component of hand sanitiser that kills the virus.
Last Thursday, another mobile court seized a large amount of fake hand sanitiser, hand rub and hexisol from a company named Annex Worldwide.com in Chittagong and fined it Tk2 lakhs.
As those products are recommended as key safety gear to protect from the deadly virus, dozens of companies have started producing fake hand sanitiser because the demand for the product has spiked in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Law enforcement agencies have arrested and fined such fraudsters across the country.
As per the World Health Organisation, hand sanitiser containing at least 60 percent alcohol or a "persistent antiseptic" should be used to kill viruses – including the flu virus, the common cold virus and coronaviruses.
People across the country have started buying and hoarding these hygiene products, which were hardly used before the pandemic.
According to the listed pharmaceutical companies' IMS report, hundreds of litres of hand sanitiser worth Tk15 crore were sold in May. Before Covid-19 spread, the market size of the product was so nominal that the companies even did not keep sales data on this item.
Square Pharmaceuticals and ACI Limited were the key producers of the product, however, in response to the market demand after March 8, when the first Covid-19 patient was confirmed in Dhaka, hand sanitiser producing companies mushroomed.
Many companies have started producing and supplying this product to pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical companies as it is profitable when overall business has dropped significantly.
Mobile stalls of such fake hand sanitiser were seen at every intersection of different roads of the capital. The public cannot determine whether or not the product is fake.
Directorate General of Drug Administration, the authority to issue the license and control the quality of the medicine and medical product, said licensees are mandatory to ensure the quality of the hand sanitiser.
"We only provide the license to those who have their own lab and infrastructure to maintain quality," said Md. Ruhul Amin, Director (Admin) of Drug Administration.
He said there were around 30 pharmaceutical companies authorised to produce hand sanitiser meeting the quality.
Unbranded hand sanitiser, sold on pavements and at intersections, are fake, he said.
"We do conduct random drives at different times to test the products to check the companies are maintaining the quality," he added.
Meanwhile, experts say using fake hand sanitiser could increase chances of contracting the virus instead of keeping people safe. Users could also face skin problems including allergies.
Dr Md Hossain Sohrab, the principal scientist at Science Lab of Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, said, "Sanitiser without its key ingredient, cannot protect the users from contracting the virus. Instead, it puts the users in more danger of contracting the virus if they use it in good faith."
Isopropyl alcohol or ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, glycerol, and sterile distilled or boiled cold water are the key ingredients of real hand sanitiser.