FDA recalls certain tattoo inks for bacterial contamination causing infections


YBOR CITY, Fla. (WFLA) – For one Tampa tattoo artist, the goal is simple.

Go safe or go home.

Mark Mahaffey says he has one mission in mind when he sees clients. 

In fact, he calls it his number one priority at Ink Spot Tattoo in Tampa.


“Making money and doing the art is amazing, but you really, really have to be clean,” Mark told WFLA. “This is number one, always.”

Indeed, his shop is spotless, and customers love it. 

The longtime tattoo artist runs a tight ship in Ybor. “You have to,” he said. “We are always safe and clean. There’s no other way to do it.”

He says his goal has served him well for the past four years in Tampa.

Mark maintains that his secret to success is making clients feel comfortable in a clean, sanitary, safe environment. 

After tainted tattoo ink began turning up all over the country, causing nasty infections, the FDA issued a sweeping recall.

Mark says he’s glad the FDA took swift, decisive action. He calls it crucial and necessary, both on the federal and local level.

“The health department can come in here at any time. It doesn’t matter when it is, they do random checks. We love it,” he told us. “I want them to come in here at any given time because at any given time, we’re doing the correct job.”

When the FDA recall made headlines, Mark took swift action of his own.

He began going through his own supplies, checking every ink bottle. Turns out, his supplies were, indeed, safe. The ink bottles in Mark’s shop were not included in the recall.

He says he wanted to make sure his shelves were not stocked with products containing harmful bacteria. He also told us he wants clients to feel comfortable with the ink he uses, with the highest safety standards, he says, put into place.

He offers this advice to anyone who wants a tattoo. 

Ask questions, lots of them.

Mark says if the tattoo artist won’t answer your questions or address your concerns, you’re in the wrong place.

“We talk to everyone,” Mark said. “We take the time to make sure they feel at ease. It’s my job. I want them to know they’re in a sanitary environment. It’s safe. It’s clean. You have to be clean, you just have to.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recalled and is advising consumers, artists and retailers to avoid using or selling certain inks that they say are contaminated with microorganisms

The FDA says there are three types of ink that have the potential to cause serious injury from the use of the ink because of bacterial contamination. 

“Tattoo inks contaminated with microorganisms can cause infections and lead to serious health injuries when injected into the skin during a tattooing procedure since there is an increased risk of infection any time the skin barrier is broken,” officials wrote in a release. 

Some of the commonly reported symptoms of tattoo-ink-associated infections include the appearance of rashes, lesions and red papules in areas where the contaminated ink has been applied, officials say. Some tattoo infections led to permanent scarring. 

“Indications of an infection can be difficult to recognize as other conditions (e.g., allergic reactions) may have initially had similar signs and symptoms, leading to misdiagnosis and ineffective treatments,” officials wrote. 

Officials identified six tattoo inks that are contaminated with bacteria harmful to human health. The tattoo inks were manufactured by 4 firms inspected under an ongoing assignment.  

The products affected by this recall are: 

  • Scalpaink SC, Scalpaink PA and Scalpaink AL basic black tattoo inks manufactured by Scalp Aesthetics (all lots) 
  • Dynamic Color – Black tattoo ink manufactured by Dynamic Color Inc (lots 12024090 and 12026090) 
  • Solid Ink-Diablo (red) tattoo ink manufactured by Color Art Inc. (dba Solid Ink) (dba Antone’s Ink) (lot 10.19.18) 

People looking to get a new tattoo are advised to ask the artist or studio about the inks they’re using and avoid using the inks on the list. Artists and retailers are advised to not use or sell the inks listed. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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