Antibiotics, dwindling?

The FDA looks into soap

January 22, 2014

Last spring, the New Yorker reporter David Owen profiled Purell, the gel that’s universally popular for sanitizing your hands when soap and water aren’t, well, handy.

Purell uses alcohol to kill germs — a method that’s still considered perfectly safe. But the rise of Purell came along with a surge in antibacterial soaps, most containing the controversial chemical triclosan.

According to USA Today, an estimated 75 percent of hand soaps and body washes sold in the U.S. contain triclosan. But in December, the FDA announced that it was looking into the safety of antibacterial soaps.

At issue isn’t just the ever-growing problem of antibiotic resistance; there are questions as to whether triclosan and its related chemicals — found in a wide range of products, such as shampoo, toothpaste, detergent, fabric, and pacifiers — can act as a hormone disruptor.

As the New York Times noted, the FDA seems to be on the regulatory move lately, noting that the federal agency had also taken action against the use of antibiotics in animals raised for meat and the use of trans fats in prepared foods.

Food activist Anna Lappé is skeptical that the FDA will follow through on the use of antibiotics in animals. But, of course, there are an increasing number of farmers and consumers who are voting with their forks in favor of humanely raised meat — which, by its very nature, seldom calls for antibiotics.

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