Claim:   White and Blue Lion tattoo ink is under national recall due to bacterial contamination.


Example: [Collected via Facebook, March 2015]

Keep this in mind if you’re getting a tattoo soon.

Tattoo ink linked to infection gets FDA recall

Thinking about getting a tattoo? Think again. White and Blue Lion ink is undergoing a nationwide recall by the FDA.


Origins:   Although tattoos have grown in both social acceptance and popularity across the years, lingering concerns about the safety and long-term career prospects of the inked remain. Tattoo enthusiasts have long complained of discrimination and negative feedback, and one negative belief

they commonly confront holds that the act of tattooing is inherently risky.

On 30 March 2015, the example quoted above involving a recall of a brand of tattoo ink that had been linked to infections was published to the Facebook page of Columbia, South Carolina, television station WIS, which in turn picked up the report from Georgia station WALB. The photograph and its attached link were subsequently shared on social media, causing rumors about the tattoo ink recall to recirculate widely. However, the link pointed not to a current news story, but to one that had been published on 15 August 2014 and had seen no significant updating since 20 August 2014. Moreover, the scope of the original tattoo ink recall was difficult to discern from the original report: the claim mentioned one brand of tattoo ink (White and Blue Lion) but didn’t explain whether that brand was widely used or only distributed on a small scale:

Recently the FDA made a nationwide recall on White and Blue Lion tattoo ink. They say it’s due to a pathogenic bacterial contamination within the ink. One person has already suffered a skin infection from its use.

This bacteria can be very dangerous if it is released into your bloodstream. It can affect certain organs, which can be life-threatening.

White and Blue Lion ink is a California based company. They sell ink, needles, and kits, usually for those wishing to tattoo at home. Consumers can find their products online.

Anyone who recently purchased White and Blue Lion products is urged to return them immediately. They are usually packaged with a colorful dragon on the front, but some may not have information labeled properly.

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) release dated 15 July 2014 (one month earlier than the original article) explained the scope of the recall, which included needles as well as ink:

White & Blue Lion, Inc. in the City of Industry, CA is recalling all lots of tattoo Inks and tattoo needles due to pathogenic bacterial contamination. Use of these products may cause bacterial infection and can lead to sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection. As of an extra precaution, we are also recalling all tubes and ink cups as well. The recall includes all tattoo ink, tattoo needles, tubes, ink cups and kits distributed by White & Blue Lion including the ones specifically listed below.

The FDA release also detailed the findings of “potentially pathogenic organisms” in the tattoo kits and inks that prompted the recall:

The inks and needles are sold in tattoo kits and the inks are also sold separately by 8Decades and White & Blue Lion, Inc. through & There was a report of one illness as of today’s date.

From the tattoo kits (ink and needles) a variety of potentially pathogenic organisms were isolated and identified including: Gram negative bacteria, Gram positive rods and cocci, which when identified to the genus and species levels included: Bacilllus spp. Sphingomonas paucimobilis, Micrococcus lutes, Corynebacterium spp., Clostridium botulinum and other Clostridium spp. No Mycobacteria were isolated.

From the ink sets a variety of potentially pathogenic organisms were isolated and identified including: Gram negative bacteria, Gram positive rods and cocci, which when identified to the genus and species levels included: Bacillus spp, Acinetobacter spp., Staphylococcus haemolyticus, Sphingomonas paucimobilis. No Mycobacteria were isolated.

Reports indicate that one individual fell ill and a brand of tattoo supplies was subsequently recalled in July 2014, but we’ve found no additional reports of illness or further recall activity after that date.

Last updated:   2 April 2015


    Rosales, Nicole.   “Tattoo Ink Linked to Infection Gets FDA Recall.”

    WIS-TV [Columbia, SC].   15 August 2014.

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