Walmart insisted “safety is always a top priority” as it scrambled this week to reach thousands of customers who bought a recalled air freshener spray linked to a dangerous bacteria that’s now killed at least two, including a child.
“Our sympathies go out to the four families that have been impacted by this situation,” the company said Tuesday evening.
“Customer safety is always a top priority and as part of the recall we proactively put plans in action to notify customers and prevent further product sales while federal agencies continue their investigation.”
Walmart voluntarily recalled the roughly 3,900 bottles of the Better Homes and Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones last week, with federal regulators saying it contains the “rare and dangerous” bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei.
The bacteria causes melioidosis, also known as Whitmore’s disease, “a condition that is difficult to diagnose and can be fatal,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has been investigating a cluster of four melioidosis infections in Georgia, Kansas, Texas and Minnesota that recently killed two Americans.
On Tuesday, the CDC said it confirmed that the air freshener spray or one of its ingredients caused the infections.
Walmart said it pulled the spray from shelves in about 55 stores in 18 states as soon as Walmart learned of the issue. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer said it also put a register block in place to prevent any more sales of the product.
A full list of the stores that were selling the product can be found here.
Walmart said it emailed customers who purchased the spray online on Friday, alerting them of the recall and telling them they may have bought the spray since February.
“In addition, the company is sending letters to another 263 customers with no email address on record and placing calls to a small number of other customers with no available email or physical address,” the company said.
Walmart said customers who still have the spray in their homes should stop using it immediately. They should also double bag the bottle in clean, clear zip-top resealable bags and place it in a small cardboard box.
“It is important that these products be handled correctly and returned to Walmart,” the company said. “Walmart will provide a full refund and offer a $20 gift card for any inconvenience.”