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News 5 Investigates: $15 sanitizer sold in Pueblo is mislabeled and looks like water

Posted at 6:27 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 20:13:41-04

PUEBLO — It's no secret that people are using the Coronavirus pandemic to make money by marking up items like Clorox wipes, face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

News 5 Investigates went undercover last week to catch people price gouging critical medical supplies.

Now we've learned that a street vendor in Pueblo has been selling small bottles of hand sanitizer for $15.

However, News 5 Investigates found a bigger problem with the labeling on the sanitizer sold at the corner of Santa Fe Drive and Aspen in Pueblo.

Ron Nedbal reached out to us after a family member purchased 4 bottles of sanitizer. He didn't like the price, but his gut told him something else just wasn't right.

"I just think it's misrepresented and somebody is gouging and they have no morals at all," Nedbal said.

While the sanitizer has a "Chromo Labs" business label on it, Nedbal pointed out that at the bottom of the label, it says it's a "1 gallon" bottle.

This is false. At most, the bottle can hold 3 ounces.

The ingredients label is also blurry and cannot be easily read. It also looks like it's glued with Elmer's glue and held on with packing tape.

"The sheriff's office said it should be a case of buyer beware and I guess it should be," Nedbal said. "However, it's also hard to inspect them (the bottles) when they are in a bag when you're buying them. You expect to get what you're paying for and that's not what this is at all."

Nedbal took a picture where you can see the seller is advertising sanitizer and produce.

When Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross stopped by the location Wednesday morning, the seller was not there.

We asked the Pueblo Health Department about rules and regulations for selling sanitizer on the streets.

"The alcohol should only be manufactured from business that are already producing ethyl alcohol prior to this pandemic," the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment said in a statement. "They have different formulations available but should be labeled with all pertinent information. Regarding the sales part of the sanitizer, it can cause an issue from someone trying to make a quick profit. If this is in Pueblo, PDPHE can investigate, but if its out of our jurisdiction, this would be reviewed by the State Health Department. The best this is still to just wash hands with plain soap and water and if people are saying home this should not be a problem."

We also reached out to the El Paso County Health Department for comment as News 5 Investigates noticed listings for sanitizers on web sites like Facebook and Craigslist.

"Selling or giving away homemade hand sanitizer that is not approved by the FDA is not recommended," the El Paso County Health Department said in a statement. "The CDC recommends protecting yourself from the spread of COVID-19 by washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after someone has been in public, or after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing. Hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% is recommended if soap and water are not readily available."

Outside of a pandemic, 2-3 oz bottles of name brand sanitizer like "Purell" can be found in stores for $1-$2.

Tips when buying medical and cleaning supplies:

-Buy from reputable stores and businesses you've shopped at before. Many street vendors are reputable too, but always shop with caution and ask questions.

-If you see a product brand you don't recognize, seek clarification on where the company is located and where the seller got the product.

-If a cleaning product or sanitizer is unlabeled, avoid making the purchase.

-Look out for product labels which may appear to be tampered with or alerted in any way.

-Report suspected price gouging to the Colorado Attorney General's Office.

-For issues related to medical claims made from a product or other health-related concerns, contact your local health department.

Chromo Labs tells KOAA News 5 that the pictures we sent them do not reflect how they package and sell sanitizer. It now appears someone is using their logo and placing it on generic 2-3 ounce bottles. You can read and watch our follow up report here.