South Florida

Alleged Mishandling of Donated Blood Poses Public Health Threat: FDA

A South Florida blood bank is under fire by the Food and Drug Administration. It's accused of mishandling donated blood that now poses a threat to public health.

This is the first time the FDA has shut down a blood bank in more than a decade. Allegations range from the mislabeling of blood to not notifying donors they have HIV.

Giving blood can help save a life.

But for a company whose motto is "Every Drop Counts," the FDA issued a scathing suspension against United States Blood Bank, stating "significant deviations routinely occur" which "presents a danger to health."

FDA officials said the for-profit corporation failed to properly notify at least 120 people who gave blood, that it tested positive for HIV.

The blood bank mailed out a generic letter to those infected, not giving them any specifics, just asking them to contact them. Only 16 people did.

A concern for the FDA and local HIV health advocates is spreading it to others.

Members of Care Resource in Miami said it's not only a health obligation to notify people right away, but a moral obligation.

"When you know your status, you're more empowered to take better care of your health and not spread what you have onto others," said Jonathan Welsh with Care Resource.

That's not all.

According to the FDA, the blood bank also shipped out 1,500 units of plasma from donors who tested positive for HIV or hepatitis, without federal approval, or properly labeling the samples.

However, the FDA said they have no reason to believe the infected plasma went to actual people.

The company president wouldn't talk on camera, but handed NBC 6 a letter, stating there have not been any issues with the "safety of our donors or blood" and the blood used for transfusions has been deemed "pure and safe."

They're calling it a record-keeping problem, one they're working right now to fix.

The company has ten days to let the feds know what they're doing to fix the problem, otherwise the blood bank could be shut down for good.

The FDA said if anyone has any questions about a transfusion they may have received, they should call the hospital directly.

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