Friday, April 22, 2011

More Myths in the World of Handwashing

Earlier this year I wrote about the myth of antibacterial soap and the marketing claims that come with it. (Plain soap is just as effective and antibacterial soap may actually strengthen the bacteria it claims to kill.)

However, there are other products that make even stronger (and as dubious) claims in regard to how they prevent potentially life-threatening infections from MRSA, E. coli, Salmonella, or H1N1 flu.

Thankfully, the Food and Drug Administration recently sent warning letters to several companies that sold such products.

From an FDA consumer update released earlier this week:
FDA is cracking down on companies that break federal law by promoting their products as preventing MRSA infections and other diseases without agency review and approval.

“Consumers are being misled if they think these products you can buy in a drug store or from other places will protect them from a potentially deadly infection,” says Deborah Autor, compliance director at FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

One company claims that its hand sanitizing lotion prevents infection from the bacterium E. coli and the H1N1 flu virus. And another firm claims its “patented formulation of essential plant oils” kills the bacterium Salmonella. These claims are also unproven and, therefore, illegal.
“FDA has not approved any products claiming to prevent infection from MRSA, E. coli, Salmonella, or H1N1 flu, which a consumer can just walk into a store and buy” says Autor. “These products give consumers a false sense of protection.”
According to the FDA, in general, the best recipe for keeping hands clean is to:
[W]ash hands often, especially before handling food, to help avoid getting sick. Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. For children, this means the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.

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