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Sunday, October 21, 2007

FDA and CDC warn against alcohol-based hand sanitizers

FDA Says NO to Alcohol Hand Sanitizers in Food Preparation

2003 Study

Hand Hygiene
in Retail & Food Service Establishments

".. CDC guidance document recommends alcohol-based hand gel as a " suitable alternative " to handwashing for health-care personnel in health-care settings. These guidelines were not intended to apply to food establishments.

" ... the antimicrobial efficacy of alcohol-containing handwashes for use in any setting remains under review by FDA. Some published studies also indicate that moisture on the hands may interfere with alcohol efficacy. In addition, alcohol has been shown to be ineffective against protozoan oocysts and, depending on the alcohol concentration, time, and viral variant, alcohol may not be effective against hepatitis A, or other non-lipophilic viruses.

Existing data do not demonstrate that alcohol-based hand gel effectively reduces important infectious foodborne pathogens at levels that occur on food workers' hands, especially if the hands are soiled with fatty and proteinaceous materials. Even in health-care settings, the CDC guidelines recommend soap and water handwashing on hands that are visibly soiled, or contaminated with proteinaceous material, rather than using the alcohol-based sanitizers.

Concern about the practice of using alcohol-based hand gels in place of hand washing with soap and water in a retail or food service setting can be summarized into the following points:

  • Alcohols have very poor activity against bacterial spores, protozoan oocysts, and certain nonenveloped (nonlipophilic) viruses; and

  • Ingredients used in alcohol-based hand gels for retail or food service must be approved food additives, and approved under the FDA monograph or as a New Drug Application (NDA); and

  • Retail food and food service work involves high potential for wet hands and hands contaminated with proteinaceous material. Scientific research questions the efficacy of alcohol on moist hands and hands contaminated with proteinaceous material.

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