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Anti-Bacterial Hand Soaps in Foodservice

Implications of new anti anti-bac FDA ruling

To use or not to use anit-bac soaps is a very minor decision in foodservice compared to motivating staff to wash more often. 

The new FDA ruling is targeted, for now, on consumer products but will likely raise the topic in restaurants and by their local inspectors. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm517478.htm

Frequent washing in commercial kitchens and service areas is operationally critical. Products of choice must be effective on contamination removal and be user-friendly in the short and long terms. Industry’s self-imposed standards of frequency often range between 8 and 24 washes per 8 hour shift, 1-3 HW/EH (Hand Washes/Employee Hour).

Local inspectors are frequently influenced by the preponderance of anti-bac media promotion with powerfully graphic commercials. They may well internalize the messaging with this sentiment - “Anti-bac makes sense. I am recommending anti-bac soaps to my restaurants.” Restaurants find that their use of anti-abc hand soaps nourishes the peace profile between them and their inspector.

Handwashing For Life preferentially values hand soaps for their removal of soils but must be formulated for frequent use. If a foodservice operation wants further log reduction of pathogens, use of hand sanitizer is recommended after drying of hands. This extra step is now very effective as the soil has been previously removed by friction-aided handwashing with soap. This separation of cleaning and killing steps forms the basic logic for surface cleaning as well, first clean then sanitize or disinfect.

Some hand soaps have a noticeably chemical/disinfectant smell, usually first noted by women employees. They don’t usually say anything to their supervisors but they cut back on their handwashing because of implied harshness or wash in the guest restroom where the soap may be more mild. Or wash without soap.

Handwashing For Life advocates handwash frequency over the minor effectiveness gained through use of anti-bacterial soaps in foodservice where skin-contact time strongly diminishes germ kill potential. Formulation matters well beyond label statements and consumer media advertising. 

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