Hand-Desanitizer: Irony for Clarcon

A product becomes ironic when it does the opposite of what it should do.  Imagine a laundry detergent that made clothes dirty.  Such was the case for Clarcon Biological Chemistry Laboratory Inc. of Roy, Utah.  In June of 2009,  its hand sanitizer was found to contaminated and to cause infections.  An FDA inspection lead to the voluntary recall.  It should be noted almost all US recalls are voluntary as the US government allows the company to save face/reputation.  The FDA told consumers to just thrown the product out.  Here the specific concern from the FDA news release:

” Analyses of several samples of over-the-counter topical antimicrobial skin sanitizer and hand protectant products revealed high levels of various bacteria, including some associated with unsanitary conditions.

Some of these bacteria can cause opportunistic infections of the skin and underlying tissues. Such infections may need medical or surgical attention, and may result in permanent damage.

FDA finds the inspection results particularly concerning because the products are promoted as antimicrobial agents that claim to treat open wounds, damaged skin, and protect against various infectious diseases.

The inspection uncovered serious deviations from FDA’s requirements.

Consumers should not use any Clarcon products. Examples of these products include

• Citrushield Lotion

• Dermasentials DermaBarrier

• Dermassentials by Clarcon Antimicrobial Hand Sanitizer

• Iron Fist Barrier Hand Treatment

• Skin Shield Restaurant

• Skin Shield Industrial

• Skin Shield Beauty Salon Lotion

• Total Skin Care Beauty

• Total Skin Care Work”


In August of 2009, the FDA instructed the US Marshalls to seize all hand sanitizer at Clarcon’s Roy, Utah facility.  Marshalls seizing a product is an unusual move.  Here is part of the FDA statement after the raid:

“’The FDA is committed to taking enforcement action against firms that do not manufacture drugs in accordance with our current good manufacturing practice requirements,”’said Deborah M. Autor, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Compliance. ‘We will remain vigilant in our efforts to protect consumers from defective products.’” http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm174940.htm

As you can imagine, this was a perfect news story.  One news value is oddity (Chapter 6 Media Relations) and this is an oddity.  Rarely has the term irony been used so appropriately.  Here is a typical segment form a news story about the recall:

“The FDA said its findings, following a recent inspection of the Clarcon facility, are particularly concerning because the products are promoted as antimicrobial agents that claim to treat open wounds and damaged skin and protect against various infectious diseases. The inspection uncovered serious deviations from FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practice requirements, the agency said.

Calls to Clarcon for comment Monday night were not answered.”


The online media enjoyed the recall as Clarcon was the subject of blogs and tweets.

 Sample tweet:  “drlawmom: @bretta75 Did you read that all hand sanitizer from CLARCON has been recalled due to dangerous bacteria.”

Sample post (from a registered nurse): “Clarcon claims to use strict quality control measures in their manufacturing process. In this instance, consumers are warned to discard the products, and do not use them under any circumstances because of risk of serious infection and complications that could cause permanent damage.” http://www.emaxhealth.com/1020/66/32602/fda-clarcon-products-linked-unsanitary-conditions.html
Ideally this case would include material from Clarcon but there is hardly any comment by the company and their web site has down through August of 2009.

Questions to Consider:

  1.  In addition to oddity, what other factors make the Clarcon story newsworthy (Chapter 5)?
  2. From the short news story segment in the case, who seemed to be framing the event and what evidence supports that conclusion?
  3. What effect might the online comments have had on the case?
  4. If we treat this case a crisis, what communication recommendations would you have had for Clarcon and what is the rationale behind each recommendation (Chapter 12)?
  5. If you were to rate the reputation threat of this crisis on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the greatest threat, what score would you give it an why?
  6. How might the online environment been used to protect Clarcon’s reputation during the crisis (Chapter 7)?

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