A ministry announcement on Friday said the seized sanitiser contained methanol, a substance banned by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The sanitiser was mostly confiscated in the capital, but quantities were also seized in provinces throughout the country.
“Methanol is a non-toxic, colourless, odourless alcohol that is very similar to normal alcohol (ethyl alcohol), and is mainly used as a solvent,” the statement said.
Methanol is generally marketed as methyl alcohol, methyl hydrate, methyl hydroxide, methylol, wood naphtha or wood spirit, among other names.
It is completely water-soluble and highly flammable.
WHO guidelines state that methanol is not allowed to be used as an active ingredient in the production of hand sanitisers as it can adversely affect the health of consumers.
Short-term effects include skin burning, eye irritation, headaches, drowsiness, confusion, disorientation, nausea, disrupted digestion and dullness of vision, according to the guidelines. Long-term effects can be far more serious.
“If mixed with alcoholic drinks or other beverages, it can be detrimental to the body’s nervous system, cause visual impairment and even complete blindness,” the guideline stated.
Ministry spokesperson Seang Thay on Sunday called on sellers, companies, enterprises and individuals who are conducting business with products containing methanol to stop the distribution of them.
“If they do not stop their illegal business practices, the ministry would take legal action,” Thay said.
Offenders will be fined or have their business licence revoked and a complaint will be filed with the court depending on the number of products seized.
General Department of Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Prevention director-general Phan Oun, said the ministry is currently taking legal action against two foreigners who illegally imported handwashing alcohol containing methanol into the market.
“Methanol affects not only consumer economics but also consumer health, so we need to build a case in court according to legal procedures,” he said. — The Phnom Penh Post/ANN