A sign advertises tattooing and piercing in London / Oli Scarff/Getty Images

A batch of contaminated ink has been re-called in in-home tattoo kits

Tattoo parlours and their clients have been urged to be wary of a re-called batch of tattoo ink that can cause infections.

While unsanitary parlours have given unwitting clients hepatitis, staph infections, and even MRSA, a US agency has discovered a brand of ink carrying bacteria that could pass infections in even the cleanest parlour.

After testing inks sold as part of in-home tattoo kits marketed by White and Blue Lion, Inc., the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed it had found infectious bacteria in unopened bottles of the company’s inks.

The products were recalled on 11 July, but the body is concerned that bottles may have been mistakenly sold on.

One person has been infected after using the company’s tattoo products, according to Linda Katz, director of FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colours, while the agency is aware of other reports linked to tattoo products in similar packaging.

“We are aware of other reports linked to tattoo products with similar packaging,” she said.

Permanent tattoos – both traditional body artwork and makeup – are made by using needles to inject coloured ink below the surface of the skin.

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Infected ink can cause a range of problems, including redness, swelling, weeping wounds, blemishes, and excessive pain in the area. The FDA has also received reports of side-effects that have taken years to materialise.

Those who experience any of these symptoms are advised to immediately seek medical attention

Even a local infection can cause a person to become permanently scarred, while untreated infections can cause sepsis – where the contamination spreads through the bloodstream. These infections may be associated with fever, shaking chills (rigors) and sweats. If these symptoms arise, treatment with antibiotics, hospitalisation and or surgery can be the outcome. 

Those most at risk include people with pre-existing heart or circulatory disease, diabetes or compromised immune systems, Katz explained.

To avoid using or being tattooed with contaminated ink, the body has advised artists, suppliers and customers of tattoo ink to be wary of: packaging without a brand name; bottles with a dragon tattoo and or without the name and place of business of the manufacturer or distributor. Bottles marked with “Lotch” [sic] and Batch numbers, and “Date produced” and “Best if used by” dates could also pose a risk.

“If you’re buying tattoo inks or getting a tattoo from a professional tattoo artist, you should first examine the products to determine whether the inks or kits meet the above descriptions,” cautioned Katz.

Epidemiologist Katherine Hollinger, from the Office of Cosmetics and Colours, added that consumers and tattoo and permanent make-up artists should take certain precautions and to urge potentially infected clients to seek medical care.

“Reporting an infection to FDA and the artist is important in order for FDA to investigate, and to enable the artist to take steps to prevent others from becoming infected,” she said.