The owner of a New Jersey 7-Eleven was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly making and selling homemade hand sanitizers which ended up burning four children, according to authorities.
Manisha Bharade, 47, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and deceptive business practices after she reportedly mixed a commercial cleanser with water and repackaged them in aftermarket bottles for sale at her River Vale convenient store, according to RLS Media.
“Let me be perfectly clear – If you try to take advantage of our residents during a public health emergency, we will hold you accountable,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement referring to the current coronavirus outbreak. “Retailers who try to make a quick buck by exploiting others will face civil and criminal consequences.”
River Vale police were alerted to the situation after seeing photos on social media of the phony sanitizer and a young boy with burn marks.
A chemical reaction to Bharade’s bogus batch allegedly claimed four victims in all — three 10-year-olds and an 11-year-old, according to Grewal.
One of the 10-year-olds was treated at a local hospital and expected to make a full recovery, while the other three were less severely harmed, according to police reports.
Officials say 14 bottles of the custom product were sold at the store, with five being recovered as of Tuesday night. The different colored bottles were sold for $2.50 each and included labels that read “Airport Carry-on” and “3oz Mini Spray,” according to Daily Voice.
“While further investigation is underway, our first priority is to make the public aware that they should not use this item if they purchased it at the River Vale 7-Eleven,” River Vale police Lt. John DeVoe said Monday. “As far as we know, this issue is limited to the River Vale store at this time.”
Analysis will be performed to determine the exact makeup of the chemical contents.
Authorities say Bharade is cooperating with the investigation, and they don’t believe she had any malicious intent.
“She wasn’t trying to make a lot of money and obviously didn’t mean to hurt anybody,” a law enforcement official told Daily Voice. “But she’s no chemist.”
On Monday, New Jersey declared a state of emergency with a reported 11 cases of coronavirus. The United States has over 1,000 cases reported, with 31 deaths, according to The Washington Post.
Worldwide, there are over 120,000 people known to be infected with the virus.
“I think that the parents need to be diligent to make sure that we’re using only products that are sanctioned and sold under a consumer product,” DeVoe added. “The last thing we want to do is to start buying into panic and creating our own type of sanitizers from compounds that we don’t know what they contain. That’s when the danger occurs. That’s when the compounds and mix and have a negative reaction, which is likely what occurred in this scenario.”
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