Potentially Deadly Rare Bacteria Found in Walmart Aromatherapy Room Sprays Prompts Recall

A type of bacteria described by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as "rare and dangerous" was found in a version of an aromatherapy room spray bottle sold at Walmart.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating four cases of melioidosis, a potentially deadly disease caused by the bacteria. While the CDC has identified evidence of the bacteria in a bottle of the recalled room spray found at the home of one of the four individuals diagnosed with melioidosis, the agency has not yet identified the source of the infection.

The name of the recalled room spray is Better Homes and Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones. In a Friday news release, the CPSC said Walmart recalled an estimated 3,900 bottles of the spray in six scents: Lavender & Chamomile, Lemon and Mandarin, Sandalwood and Vanilla, Lime & Eucalyptus, Lavender and Peppermint.

The recall came months after the CDC began investigating four cases of Burkholderia pseudomallei, a bacteria that causes melioidosis, or Whitmore's disease. The CDC defines melioidosis as an infectious disease that can be found in humans and animals and is "predominately a disease of tropical climates."

Walmart room spray bottles recalled
Thousands of bottles of a room spray sold at Walmart were recalled on Friday, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Above, a Walmart logo is seen outside a store in Washington, D.C., on August 18, 2020. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

"The bacteria causing melioidosis are found in contaminated water and soil," according to the CDC. "It is spread to humans and animals through direct contact with the contaminated source."

Earlier this year, the CDC identified four melioidosis cases reported in Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota and Texas. Two of the cases resulted in death, the agency reported.

#Recall: @Walmart Better Homes and Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones Due to Rare and Dangerous Bacteria; Two Deaths Investigated. Full recall notice: https://t.co/kXGj4hAJjs pic.twitter.com/jPrCd0b2ih

— US Consumer Product Safety Commission (@USCPSC) October 22, 2021

While the CDC noted melioidosis can be reported in individuals who have recently traveled abroad, the patients who were infected earlier this year had no recent international travel history.

"Whole genome sequencing showed the strains of bacteria (Burkholderia pseudomallei) that sickened the patients closely matched each other, suggesting there is a common source of infection in these patients," according to the CDC. "The strain of bacteria that sickened the patients was similar to those found most often in South Asia, which led CDC to suspect that an imported product may have been involved in the patients' illnesses."

On the CDC's incident page for the melioidosis cases, the agency said it identified the bacteria in an aromatherapy spray bottle that was found in the home of the infected individual from Georgia.

"Samples taken by CDC from a bottle of the Better Homes and Gardens Lavender & Chamomile aromatherapy room spray in the home of the Georgia victim found the presence of these dangerous bacteria," the CPSC's release said.

As of Friday, "the source of these four infections has not been confirmed by CDC," the CPSC said in its recall announcement.

According to the CPSC, the room sprays were sold in 55 Walmart stores around the country from February through October of this year and were also sold online. Walmart has stopped selling the sprays, CPSC said. Walmart confirmed with Newsweek it pulled the sprays from shelves and placed a "register block" in stores and online to prevent additional sales.

"We will continue assisting the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Centers for Disease Control in their investigation and are committed to providing safe, high-quality products to our customers," a Walmart statement shared with Newsweek said. "We are deeply concerned that there may be a connection between this product and this rare bacteria. Our sympathies and concerns are with the four families that have been impacted. We took immediate action after federal agencies alerted us Wednesday of concerns with an aromatherapy room spray manufactured by Flora Classique Inc. and sold under the Better Homes & Gardens brand. We pulled the product from the shelves of about 55 stores where it was part of a pilot program and put a register block in place at our stores and online to prevent any further sales."

The CPSC and CDC said individuals who purchased the sprays should stop using them "immediately" and seek to return them instead of throwing the bottles away.

Walmart reiterated those recommendations in its statement. "Customers who purchased the Better Homes & Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones since February should stop using it immediately and follow recommendations in the voluntary recall notice for securing and returning the product to a Walmart store. This includes double bagging the bottle in clean, clear zip-top resealable bags and placing it in a small cardboard box," the company told Newsweek. "It is important that these products be handled correctly and returned to Walmart. Walmart will provide a full refund and $20 gift card for any inconvenience."

According to the CDC, the agency "is coordinating with the state health departments to try to determine whether the other three patients may have also used this or similar products."