State, 3M partner to remove 500K counterfeit N95 respirators from circulation

The state of Minnesota and 3M have partnered to prevent 500,000 counterfeit N95 respirators from being distributed to state health care facilities. According to the Department of Administration, the counterfeit respirators will be turned over to 3M for destruction. The fake respirators are valued at $2.1 million.

The State Emergency Operations Center’s Critical Care Supplies Work Group ordered the 3M-branded N95 respirators, Model 1860, as emergency supplies should hospitals and clinics be unable to procure their own personal protective equipment (PPE). The vendor, Supply Link, Inc., contracted with the state to provide the respirators. The state does not generally pay for PPE until the items have been received, and no public funds were expended for this order.

"Protecting the health and safety of frontline health care workers is our top priority," Administration Commissioner Alice Roberts-Davis said. "Part of sourcing scarce personal protective equipment in an intensively competitive environment is ensuring authenticity and effectiveness before delivery to healthcare facilities. Our partnership with Minnesota’s leading businesses such as 3M has been instrumental in providing reliable products."

Amid increasing reports of counterfeiting and fraud, 3M has been working with the state and other states across the country in verifying the authenticity of offers of what are claimed to be 3M respirators. 3M says it has seized more than 7 million counterfeit respirators.

"I assume that the quality of those masks is not what we would’ve expected it to be," said Minnesota Department of Administration Commissioner Alice Roberts-Davis. "I don’t know that they would have fit properly. I don’t know that they would have had the proper filtration. And ultimately, we can assume that health care workers would not have been as protected as they thought they were, wearing what they would have assumed was an N95 mask."

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3M inspected the respirators and determined the products were not authentic. In a cease-and-desist letter, 3M requested the vendor to immediately surrender the counterfeit masks for removal from circulation. Supply Link, Inc. has cooperated with the request.

"3M is proud to have worked with the State of Minnesota to prevent the purchase and distribution of these counterfeit respirators. 3M is making more N95s than ever before and we will continue to take action against those exploiting the demand for these critical products," 3M Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Denise Rutherford said.

"These things go through a long supply chain and ultimately there will be an investigation that shows where the supply chain broke down and who in fact was the bad actor," Roberts-Davis said.