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As hand sanitizer becomes more and more scarce amid the coronavirus outbreak, one New Jersey 7-Eleven owner made her own, but authorities say the concoction caused more harm than good.
Four boys – three 10-year-olds and one 11-year-old – were burned after purchasing hand sanitizer at a River Vale 7-Eleven, a press release from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office states. Photos of “a young boy with apparent burns to his arm and leg” had circulated around social media earlier this week leading to an investigation, according to a separate River Vale Police Department statement.
Police said they “seized the remaining bottles,” which were sold as sprays, from the store Monday night.
The store’s owner Manisha Bharade, 47, of Wood-Ridge has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child and deceptive business practices.
Bharade is accused of mixing commercially available foaming sanitizer with water. Prosecutors say that an “apparent chemical reaction from the mixture caused the burns.” Investigators are analyzing the sanitizer to “determine the exact make-up of the chemical mixture,” according to the prosecutor’s office.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Singh Grewal announced that the Division of Consumer Affairs has also “opened an investigation into the store’s practices regarding the sale and promotion of health and sanitation products offered by the store since the emergence of the coronavirus outbreak.”
As health concerns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak grow, household items like sanitizer and toilet paper have been flying off the shelves, causing shortages everywhere, USA Today reports. In some areas, price-gouging has ensued, according to The Atlantic. An amusement park in the United Kingdom, which is also grappling with the virus, even put toilet paper rolls and sanitizer into its grabber machines, a move that some may not find amusing, CNN reports. News outlets, like WCJB in Gainesville, Florida are giving their viewers instructions on how to make their own sanitizer, as Bharade allegedly did.
Grewal has accused Bharade of trying to profit off product scarcities during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Let me be perfectly clear: if you try to take advantage of our residents during a public health emergency, we will hold you accountable,” he said in a statement included in the prosecutor’s office press release. “Retailers who try to make a quick buck by exploiting others will face civil and criminal consequences.”
He also tweeted Tuesday that a “price gouging law [is] now in effect.” He urged people to report anyone they suspect of illegal price hikes on hand sanitizer or other items to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs at (973) 504-6240.
It’s not clear if Bharade has an attorney who can speak on her behalf.
An unnamed law enforcement official told New Jersey’s Daily Voice that “she wasn't trying to make a lot of money and obviously didn't mean to hurt anybody.”
The outlet notes that each bottle was reportedly sold for $2.50.
Fourteen bottles in total were sold at Bharade’s 7-Eleven, according to authorities. Five have been turned over. Anyone else who purchased hand sanitizer from the location is asked to contact the River Vale Police Department at (201) 664-1111.
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