Soap and water works: FDA says antibacterial soaps do nothin

Bacteria are good at making babies.

antibacterial.soapSo next time you see an advert claiming the product removes 99.9 per cent of bacteria, talk to a microbiologist who will say that’s a 3-log reduction, we look for 5-7 log reductions.

Maggie Fox of NBC News reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says antibacterial soaps do little or nothing to make soap work any better and said the industry has failed to prove they’re safe. Companies will have a year to take the ingredients out of the products, the FDA said. They include triclosan and triclocarban. Soap manufacturers will have an extra year to negotiate over other, less commonly used ingredients such as benzalkonium chloride.

“Companies will no longer be able to market antibacterial washes with these ingredients because manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections,” the FDA said in a statement. “Some manufacturers have already started removing these ingredients from their products.” Triclosan used in 93 percent of liquid products labeled “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial” – at least 2,000 different products, according to the FDA. “Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water”.

In 2013 FDA gave soap makers a year to show that adding antibacterial chemicals did anything at all to help them kill germs. It made the rule final Friday.

Scientists find ancient Welsh beer recipe that could treat food poisoning

While breweries in China may date back 5,000 years, a 16th century Welsh drink has been found to contain antibacterial properties that could help fight food poisoning.

stream_imgScientists at Cardiff University hope to create a “super mead” using a mixture of herbs that can tackle salmonella.

“We’re actually running out of antibiotics now, so it’s imperative that we identify new products that are active against these bacteria, especially the likes of salmonella and e-coli which are causing problems all over the country and indeed the world…”

– Dr James Blaxland, Cardiff University

The scientists have been trying to work out how to make a so-called ‘super honey’.

They’ve found with a mix of herbs that together can fight bacteria like salmonella.

“Back in the sixteenth century, there was a Welsh drink called metheglin. Metheglin translates into ‘healing liquor’.

Basically, it’s mead… alcoholic mead that we drink… combined with medicinal herbs.

What we are trying to do is identify those medicinal herbs that we could add to the mead to make a drink that was antibacterial.”

– Prof Les Baillie, Cardiff University

They hope combining Welsh history with science being done in Wales could lead to new and effective drugs.

FDA CDER wants to know if antimicrobial soaps are effective: Schaffner responds

Friend of the Don Schaffner of Rutgers University writes in this guest post:

The FDA might not be sure if antimicrobial soaps do anything, but I am. My colleague R. Montville[1] and I published a meta-analysis on the topic in 2011. As we noted in our manuscript, although differences in efficacy between antimicrobial and nonantimicrobial soap were small (∼0.5-log CFU reduction difference), antimicrobial soap produced consistently statistically significantly greater reductions when compared to plain soap. This difference was true for any of the antimicrobial compounds investigated (chlorhexidine gluconate, iodophor, triclosan, or povidone) where we had more than 20 observations to analyze.24673_1363044526205_4550195_n

But the story doesn’t end there. The American Cleaning Institute who funded[2] the meta-analysis study wanted to dig a bit further. A second article has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Food Protection, and is in the galley proof stage. That article, entitled “Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment of Antibacterial Hand Hygiene Products on Risk of Shigellosis” used previously unpublished laboratory data, together with simulation techniques, to compare the ability of nonantibacterial and antibacterial products to reduce shigellosis risk. Our simulation assumed 1 million Shigella bacteria on the hands of a food handler who washed their hands and then handled melon balls, which were then eaten. When a plain soap hand treatment was simulated, we predicted that 50 to 60 cases of shigellosis would result (of 100 exposed). Conversely, each of the antibacterial treatments (0.46% triclosan, 4% chlorhexidine gluconate, or 62% ethyl alcohol) was predicted to result in an appreciable number of simulations for which the number of illness cases would be 0, with the most common number of illness cases being 5 (of 100 exposed). These effects maintained statistical significance down to as low as 100 Shigella per hand, with some evidence to support lower levels. Like I said, I think anti-microbial soaps work. If you think they don’t, show me the data.

[1]: No, not that Montville, his daughter.
[2]: Does that make me an industry shill? Please. Like anyone can tell me what to say.

This is how irrelevant Washington, D.C is when it comes to setting food safety policy

Washington can set a minimal food safety standard, and taxpayers should get something for their money, but the resources and time spent lobbying the politicians and bureaucrats seem to have a low return on investment.

Tomorrow’s USA Today reports that a senator on the committee overseeing the National School Lunch Program called Monday for the government to raise its standards for meat sent to schools across the nation because McDonald’s, Costco, Burger King, and Jack in the Box all do a better job of food safety sampling.

Cold water is fine for washing hands – soap and vigor are the critical components

“Hot water for handwashing has not been proved to remove germs better than cold water.”

That’s the conclusion of The Claim column in tomorrow’s N.Y. Times science section.

We’ve been saying for a couple of years that water temperature is not a critical factor — water hot enough to kill dangerous bacteria and viruses would scald hands — so use whatever is comfortable. Warmer water may be better at removing oils and stuff, but not the things that make people sick.

The Times story says,

In its medical literature, the Food and Drug Administration states that hot water comfortable enough for washing hands is not hot enough to kill bacteria, but is more effective than cold water because it removes oils from the hand that can harbor bacteria.

But in a 2005 report in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, scientists with the Joint Bank Group/Fund Health Services Department pointed out that in studies in which subjects had their hands contaminated, and then were instructed to wash and rinse with soap for 25 seconds using water with temperatures ranging from 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 120 degrees, the various temperatures had “no effect on transient or resident bacterial reduction.”

They found no evidence that hot water had any benefit, and noted that it might increase the “irritant capacity” of some soaps, causing contact dermatitis.

“Temperature of water used for hand washing should not be guided by antibacterial effects but comfort,” they wrote, “which is in the tepid to warm temperature range. The usage of tepid water instead of hot water also has economic benefits.”

Should fruits and vegetables be cleaned with bottled washes? No

I’ve already posted on some of the dubious marketing and safety claims that accompanied the original Fit produce wash before it was abandoned by Procter & Gamble in 2001.

On Monday, the Los Angeles Times takes a look at produce washes out there – such as Veggie Wash, Fit Fruit and Vegetable Wash, Bi-O-Kleen Produce Wash, Earth Friendly Products Fruit & Vegetable Wash and Eat Cleaner All Natural Food Wash and Wipes — and concludes water is just fine.

Sandra McCurdy, extension food safety specialist in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, says that most produce is pathogen-free because it’s been washed during processing and because handlers take steps to avoid contaminating the fruits and vegetables they stock in the produce aisle. But if it is not, a thorough rinse under water is usually all that’s needed to remove most pathogens.

Michael Doyle (left), professor and director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia in Griffin, Ga. (Doyle developed an antimicrobial technology that was licensed earlier this year by the makers of Fit produce wash.) said,

"If the bacteria get into the tissue during processing, it’s too late, it’s trapped in the tissue.”

As for pesticides, there’s little scientific evidence to support claims that washes do a better job than water when it comes to removing them, says Anne Riederer, a professor of environmental and occupational health at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.

Food safety month, tip number one

 Food safety month, has a nice ring to it, should be food safety year as more and more people are barfing from food related incidences and since we eat everyday. So, as I was perusing the streets of Winnipeg on my Vespa flying at a record fifty kilometers an hour, listening to the Flight of the Conchords for inspiration, first food safety tip dawned on me. Change your ragged dishcloth on a daily basis as they may harbor pathogenic bacteria. The dishcloth provides the perfect medium for bacterial growth which will eventually spread throughout the kitchen increasing the risk of foodborne illness. Analyses of these cloths have revealed extremely high bacterial loads coupled with significant numbers of mold and yeast. If you change your socks daily, shouldn’t you change your dishcloth?

Can you wash your hands too much?

I’ve spent the summer on the east coast alongside my classmate Stephan, while we do internships for school. Though we have similar interests in veterinary medicine, we have very different philosophies about food safety. I am a bit like Monk, at times going overboard on cleanliness and my tendency to be a “germaphobe” with excessive handwashing.

Stephan represents the other side of the spectrum, more of a “the more bugs I’m exposed to, the more my immunity builds.” This is definitely a valid viewpoint. Hand sanitizer opponents say that antibacterial soaps and gels may cause more harm than good. They remove bad bacteria, but can also remove the good bacteria, the bacteria that protect skin surfaces from the bad bacteria. Antibacterials may also help breed drug-resistant bacteria.

It’s a tricky tightrope to walk. Washing your hands before eating is a good way to reduce your risk of foodborne illness, but removing too much beneficial bacteria from skin surfaces or gut can leave the body more susceptible to harmful bacteria and may cause allergic or autoimmune reactions.

The bottom line is that regular soap works great in moderation, and it should always be used before consuming food or sticking your fingers in your mouth. What kind of soap is best? I tend to lean towards the foaming liquid soap, mostly because it comes in great scents, but basically soap is better than no soap. Follow Doug’s mantra to wash your hands and don’t eat poop.

Flip flops or foodborne illness: pick your poison

Flip flops are gross microbiological factories loaded with E. coli, Staph aureus and fecal matter that will soon be returning to university campuses around the U.S.


At least CBS medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton had the sense to say,

"Have there been people who have gotten some pretty bad skin infections because they’ve been wearing flip flops or walked barefoot? Sure.”

Ashton said in her opinion, food poisoning, which can contain bacteria, is a more significant health risk than germy flip flops.

Like the latest restaurant inspections from Dade County, home of Miami, the other coast in Florida.

• The Oasis Restaurant (19 Harbor Drive, Key Biscayne) – Critical. Stop Sale issued on potentially hazardous food due to temperature abuse.

• Georges (3145 Commodore Plaza, Miami) – Critical. Stop Sale issued on potentially hazardous food due to temperature abuse.

• Good Way Cafeteria (10932 NW 7 Ave) – Critical. Observed rodent activity as evidenced by rodent droppings found. 30 plus fresh droppings under table in kitchen.

• Casa Panza (1620 SW 8 St, Miami) – Critical. Observed rodent activity as evidenced by rodent droppings found. oberved about 30 + shiny and moist dropping on floor behind coffee worktable.and about 25+ on floor behind stove in kitchen , and about 10+ in floor in bar area back dining room. fresh and moist.

• San Miguel Market Cafeteria (2600 NW 21st Ave) – Critical. Violation: 35A-05-1 Observed roach activity as evidenced by 32 plus live roaches found in kitchen by the cookline. 3 live roaches behind reachin freezer next to steam table, 2 live roaches inside ice bin, 2 live roaches inside to go cup box by bathroom.

Soft-serve sucks in Belgium

Not just a problem for Toronto or Tori Spelling, Belgium also apparently has some issues with soft-serve and regular ice cream.

Albert sent along a link to a recent report by Test-Achats, a Belgian-based consumer group that anonymously sent researchers to 69 points of sale for ice cream and soft-serve in Belgium during the summer of 2008. Amy translated, and highlights of the report are below.

“Attention was essentially directed towards touristic sites like the Côte, the Ardennes, and various country towns. They bought ice cream cones and soft-serve. While making the purchases, they took the opportunity to evaluate the hygiene at the point of sale as well as of the personnel, the place where the counter or the soft-serve dispenser was located, the conditions for rinsing the ice cream scoop, etc. Immediately after the purchase, and in appropriate sterile and temperature conditions, the ice cream was taken to the laboratory to undergo detailed bacteriological testing. …

Apparent cleanliness was rarely noted during our visits: only 18 points of sale received a good or very good score for this category. In 8 cases, general hygiene at the point of sale was simply unacceptable… and added to that was a serious lack in the staff’s personal hygiene. A serious problem that was already underscored by Test Achats: the ice cream scoop. It was only rinsed under running water in 6 of the points of sale. This is however fundamental for serving ice cream in good hygienic conditions. Too often, the scoop was left resting in obviously unclean water or it wasn’t, in any case, cleaned before service. Finally, it is unacceptable that the ice cream counter or the soft-serve machine be located in full sunlight, exposed to outside air or that the ice cream be accessible to or touched by clients. However, this was the case in 11 locations.

The testing of 5 specific bacteriological parameters as well as the number of total germs gives a realistic image of the hygienic quality of the 70 samples analyzed. Fortunately the presence of Salmonella and Listeria was never detected, on the other hand, Escherichia coli (which can provoke enteritis or diarrhea) was detected in three cases. In two cases, staphylococcus was present, proof of a lack of the personnel’s hygiene.  …

Throughout the years and through successive studies, the results are obvious: the hygienic quality of ice cream is getting worse: 35% of ice cream cones and 61% of soft-serve are bad to mediocre. This is a completely unacceptable situation."