Sunday, April 24, 2011


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has got tough on those over-the-counter hand sanitizer wipes and antiseptic gels, foaming soaps and lotions. And about time. Last week four U.S. companies were sent letters warning them not to make unproven claims. If they didn't stop exaggerating the magic power of their products in 15 days, they could be sued or have their products seized.

Many such products promise to wipe out 99% or even 99.9% of any germs sitting on your hands. In cases they even name bacteria we all know like Salmonella and E.coli, or, the flu virus. Some even claim to kill MRSA - Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is very, very resistant to just about all antibiotics, including all Penicillins, not just Methicillin (Methicillin used to be the drug of choice for treating S. aureus bacteria, but is longer used).

MRSA is the bacteria that we are all afraid of. It is a very infectious, very aggressive germ. From a small wound it can get into your bloodstream and even affect your heart. Close to 20,000 people are reported to die of MRSA each year in the U.S.

True, MRSA can be passed along on the skin of one person to another, on the tie or the lab coat of the doctor attending you in the hospital, and in many other ways. Food service workers with infected cuts on their hands have been known to pass such bacteria into food. I even read a study a couple of years ago (done in the UK) where vets were getting MRSA from pets they were treating.

Of course, we would all like to have a product that made us safer from this germ. But, as the FDA points out, the claims made by the manufacturers of many products on the market today are exaggerated. Quoting Deborah Autor, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research: “MRSA is a serious public health threat. The FDA cannot allow companies to mislead consumers by making unproven prevention claims.”

Good. Personally, I don't want that cook or waiter in the kitchen at my favorite restaurant using one of these gels or lotions before he or she handles my food. I prefer thorough hand washing under running water, and wearing disposable gloves - particularly if that food-service worker has a cut on their hands. That is likely to work better.

By the way, here are the products that the FDA is clamping down on, but believe me, they are not the only ones out there:

• Tec Laboratories for Staphaseptic First Aid Antiseptic/Pain Relieving Gel;
• JD Nelson and Associates for Safe4Hours Hand Sanitizing Lotion and Safe4Hours First Aid Antiseptic Skin Protectant;
• Dr. G.H. Tichenor Antiseptic Co. for Dr. Tichenor’s Antiseptic Gel;
• Oh So Clean, Inc dba CleanWell Company for CleanWell All-Natural Foaming Hand Sanitizer, CleanWell All-Natural Hand Sanitizer, CleanWell All-Natural Hand Sanitizing Wipes, and CleanWell All-Natural Antibacterial Foaming Handsoap


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