A Tiny Victory in the “War on Microbes”
Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of over-the-counter antibacterial soap. While this certainly comes as good news to the Grow Network, it is a very small victory.
The FDA is giving industry one year to do away with “antibacterial washes” containing any of 19 newly banned active ingredients. These include triclosan and triclocarban.
The FDA reiterated its position that washing with simple soap and water is the most effective and least risky method for cleaning our hands.
Read more: Antibiotic Resistance on the Move
Plenty of Antibacterial Products Remain
The new rules don’t apply to the healthcare industry, only to general consumers. Healthcare providers will still be able to order and use antibacterial soaps.
The new rule seems to target over-the-counter hand and body washes. But plenty of over-the-counter products are still allowed to contain the 19 banned ingredients. Commercial hand sanitizers and sanitizing wipes are not affected by the new rule. It’s not immediately clear whether other consumer products that aren’t specifically “antibacterial washes” (deodorant, creams and lotions, household cleaners) will continue to be allowed to include the 19 banned ingredients.
A few common antibacterial ingredients dodged the bullet, for the time being. Manufacturers of products using 3 antibacterial ingredients – benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, and chloroxylenol (PCMX) – were given one additional year to provide evidence that their products are safe and effective.
Back to the Old Drawing Board
Manufacturers have one year to remove offending products from the market, or to reformulate the products without any of the banned ingredients.
The FDA’s news release includes reassurances and recommendations for people who are concerned about the loss of these antibacterial products. “Washing with plain soap and running water remains one of the most important steps consumers can take to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs to others. If soap and water are not available and a consumer uses hand sanitizer instead, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that it be an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.”
It is certainly good news that the overuse of antibacterial products is being curbed at the sink. But if you’ve followed along with our narrative about antibacterial resistance, you know that the average American sink is only the tip of the iceberg. Resistance has been found to be the most widespread at the hospital and on the farm – and any meaningful change will need to take place there.
FDA issues final rule on safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm517478.htm