FDA takes closer look at antibacterial products

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It may be time to put away the antibacterial hand soap and body wash at home and the office.

The Food and Drug Administration said Monday manufacturers of antibacterial products will have to prove the items are more effective than plain soap and water. Hand sanitizers, wipes and antibacterial products used in healthcare are not affected by the decision.

“Antibacterial soaps and body washes are used widely and frequently by consumers in everyday home, work, school, and public settings, where the risk of infection is relatively low,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Due to consumers' extensive exposure to the ingredients in antibacterial soaps, we believe there should be a clearly demonstrated benefit from using antibacterial soap to balance any potential risk.”

About 2,000 individual products contain antibacterial properties, such as triclosan in liquid soaps and triclocarban in bar soaps. Some evidence indicates those properties can cause bacterial resistance.

Public comment is open until June 2014, and then companies have until December to submit data. The FDA wants to finalize the rule and determine by September 2016 whether the products are safe and effective.