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Sen. Schumer urges WNY dollar stores to stop selling topical products with FDA warning

Kyle S. Mackie

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) called on Western New York dollar stores to stop carrying “potentially dangerous” over-the-counter topical products like ointments and cosmetics in Cheektowaga Monday.

Schumer held a press conference outside the Family Dollar at Genesee Street and Andrews Avenue and said it’s one of 85 Family Dollar and Dollar Tree stores across Western New York still selling some products imported from China the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned against in November.

“These products were bought in this store,” Schumer said, holding up over-the-counter items including hand sanitizer, antibacterial ointment, mascara, bronzer and makeup remover wipes. “They’re not supposed to be there.”

That’s because the product manufacturers have shown a pattern of serious violations of federal law, according to the FDA. As a result, Schumer said the products could cause irritations like rashes and other sickness “or worse.”

The senator also outlined the actions he wants taken.

“A) Take them off the shelves, Family Dollar. B) FDA, make them take them off the shelves in they won’t. C) We gotta protect the health and well-being of Western New Yorkers. [There’s] nothing wrong with dollar stores, they can have good bargains, they have a lot of good stuff. But not this stuff.”

Credit Kyle S. Mackie / WBFO News
Schumer said the products he displayed Monday were purchased at the Cheektowaga Family Dollar and should no longer be on the shelves.

Schumer said he successfully pressured Manhattan Family Dollar and Dollar Tree stores to remove the products in question from their shelves in December. Other parts of the state, like Staten Island and Western New York, have been less compliant.

“I’m asking the FDA to come in and look at all of the dollar stores here in Western New York and demand that they take them off, and if they don’t, to impose the appropriate fines and other penalties that the law allows them to do.”

Schumer also said he wants the FDA to crack down on retailers’ ability to obtain products that don’t meet American regulations in the first place.

“Chinese made OTC [over-the-counter] drugs and the ease by which Dollar Tree and Family Dollar were able to receive them is a tell-tale sign that we’re not tough enough on what is imported from China,” he said.

Schumer did not directly answer WBFO’s question about Western New York families and individuals who may not be able to afford buying similar products at more expensive drug stores or pharmacies, saying, “better be safe than sorry.”

In the news release about its warning letter to Dollar Tree stores, the FDA said protecting health and patient is the agency’s highest priority and that it will continue to investigate companies that place Americans at risk.

“Americans expect and deserve drugs that are safe, effective and that meet our standards for quality,” said Director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Donald D. Ashley. “In this case, Dollar Tree has the ultimate responsibility to ensure that it does not sell potentially unsafe drugs and other FDA-regulated products to Americans.”

The FDA also encourages any customers who may have experienced adverse effects from Family Dollar or Dollar Tree products to report them through its MedWatch program.

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
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