FDA Bans Use of “Antibacterial” Soaps

September 6, 2016

YunHoLeeLast week we shared a video about how food companies label some items as “natural” even though they’re no healthier than their non-natural counterparts. While that term may soon come under regulation, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently banned another marketing buzzword from use on commercial products. As of last Friday, “antibacterial” soaps are no longer allowed on U.S. store shelves after manufacturers failed to prove they were safer or cleaner than regular products.

“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,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s center for evaluation and research. “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long term.” In one study from earlier this year, researchers discovered that the antibacterial ingredient triclosan could potentially change the biology of a person’s stomach while also increasing their overall resistance to antibiotics. Moreover, soap companies have been unable to back up the health claims of their antibacterial brands for years, with some firms outright ignoring the FDA’s requests for evidence.

These businesses now have one year to either change their products or remove them from stores entirely. The new rules do not apply to antibacterial alcohol-based hand sanitizers and wipes, although the FDA is investigating the efficacy of these products as well. In the meantime, health officials continue to stress the importance of keeping your hands clean using the same age-old routine. “Washing with plain soap and running water remains one of the most important steps consumers can take to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs to others,” said the FDA in a statement.



  1. Should companies try to rebrand their antibacterial soaps or simply remove them from the market?
  2. Is it ethical for companies to continue selling antibacterial soap in countries where the term has not been banned?

Source: Alan Yuhas, “Antibacterial Soaps Banned in U.S. Amid Claims They Do ‘More Harm Than Good,’” The Guardian, September 2, 2016. Photo by YunHo Lee.