TORONTO — Ontario unknowingly obtained and distributed counterfeit N95 masks to health-care providers, the government said Friday, urging them to check their supply for the fake personal protective equipment.
The province could not immediately say how many of the counterfeit 3M masks it had acquired for its stockpile, or how many were given to health-care workers.
The Ministry of Health sent a memo to health-care providers notifying them of the problem and asked them to seek out and “isolate” the faulty gear by product number.
“We have launched a thorough investigation as we work with our health system partners to ensure that these masks are no longer used by anyone and are removed from the system,” the ministry said in a statement.
The government said it is reviewing its entire stockpile to check for the counterfeit product and has also alerted Health Canada of the situation.
The province said it has put safeguards in place to ensure it buys quality PPE.
The ministry said it has also mandated that all of its 3M N95 masks undergo inspection from an independent third party.
“Wherever possible, PPE is procured from known, reliable vendors that the ministry has relationships with,” the statement said.
The president of 3M Canada said the company has been receiving increasing reports from across the country of fraud related to its product.
Penny Wise said the company recently helped Ontario and other provincial authorities confirm that N95 masks purchased from a distributor with no relation to the company are fake.
“Counterfeit products may not meet the rigorous quality standards that our authentic 3M respirators are subject to, and put the lives of those battling this pandemic at risk,” she said in a statement.
Wise said the company distributes its products through a network of authorized vendors, and recommends that customers buy from them.
“We have been working with law enforcement to eliminate this fraud as part of a global effort to combat fraud and price gouging and help protect the public against those who try and exploit the demand for critical 3M products during the pandemic,” she said.