A rule proposed by the FDA would require manufacturers of soap making antibacterial claims to prove their products are safe and have germ-killing capabilities — proof the American Cleaning Institute says the agency has had for years.
The FDA cites a lack of evidence that antibacterial products are more effective germ killers than plain soap and water. The rule would apply to hand soaps and body washes, excluding hand sanitizers, wipes and antibacterial products used in health care settings. If approved, products unable to substantiate antibacterial claims would have to be relabeled, reformulated or removed from the market.
“Studies have shown that antibacterial soaps kill germs on the skin more effectively than non-antibacterial soaps,” said Brian Sansoni, VP of communications at the ACI.
But the FDA is not convinced. “Millions of Americans use antibacterial hand soaps and body washes each day, but these products have not been shown to be more effective in preventing illness than plain soap and water,” Andrea Fischer of the FDA’s Office of Media Affairs told SN. ”Additionally, emerging data have raised concerns that long-term, daily use of these products may outweigh their presumed benefits.”
That’s why the FDA is also seeking proof that ingredients in antibacterial soaps are safe.
According to a published report, approximately 75% of antibacterial liquid soaps contain triclosan, a germ-killing agent that has also been linked to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics and altering hormones in the body.
Antibacterial soaps outsell those that do not make antibacterial claims at Pennington Quality Market, Pennington, N.J, which carries about a dozen major brands, said grocery manager Brian Williams.
“Being antibacterial is important,” he said. “People pay attention.”
Williams thinks his customers would stop buying antibacterial products if an ingredient were suspected to be harmful.
FDA has no current evidence that any active ingredient used in antibacterial washes is unsafe, but is evaluating the available literature, according to Fischer.
Manufacturers are working to provide the FDA with the most-up-to-date information, said Sansoni, adding that the rule would negatively impact manufacturers and retailers who carry private label products.
“We believe consumers should continue to have access to these products and that could be threatened,” said Sansoni. “We’re hoping it doesn’t come to [the eradication] of a safe consumer product.”
Manufacturers have until December 2014 to submit additional data.
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