Cat Cora Promotes Worrisome Antibacterial Soap

April 14, 2011

Colgate-Palmolive announced today that Iron Chef Cat Cora will be the new spokesperson for Ultra Palmolive® Antibacterial Dish Liquid. The campaign includes a series of recipes and kitchen tips from the winning chef. But is this really a good idea? Anti-bacterial soaps have been linked to the development of treatment resistant strains of bacteria. A year 2000 study found on the Centers for Disease Control website stated:

Antibiotics are critical to the treatment of bacterial infections. However, after years of overuse and misuse of these drugs, bacteria have developed antibiotic resistance, which has become a global health crisis. The relatively recent increase of surface antibacterial agents or biocides into healthy households may contribute to the resistance problem.

Here's the publicity quote from Chef Cora:

My family is the most important thing to me and figuring out ways to prevent cross-contamination while creating meals is key," said Chef Cat Cora. "Using Ultra Palmolive Antibacterial Dish Liquid to clean throughout the cooking process gives me peace of mind that I'm doing all I can to help keep bacteria in my kitchen at bay.

Though we agree with the goal and sentiment, it seems that ordinary soap is capable of achieving much of the same germ killing effect and without the use of harsher chemicals. Originally registered as a pesticide in 1969, Triclosan is the active ingredient in many antibacterial products, including Palmolive, and there are serious concerns over it's safety. So much so that the USDA is engaged in an ongoing scientific and regulatory review of the safety of triclosan. The results are due within months, but here's what the FDA has said so far:

"What consumers should know:

  • Triclosan is not known to be hazardous to humans.
  • FDA does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time.
  • In light of questions raised by recent animal studies of triclosan, FDA is reviewing all of the available evidence on this ingredient’s safety in consumer products. FDA will communicate the findings of its review to the public in spring 2011.
  • At this time, FDA does not have evidence that triclosan added to antibacterial soaps and body washes provides extra health benefits over soap and water. Consumers concerned about using hand and body soaps with triclosan should wash with regular soap and water.
  • Consumers can check product labels to find out whether products contain triclosan."