What Foodservice Workers Need to Know About the FDA Final Rule on Consumer Antibacterial Soaps


Earlier this month, the FDA issued its Final Rule on antibacterial soap products marketed to consumers or made available for use in public settings. This ruling excludes antibacterial soaps used in foodservice settings, as well as hand sanitizers. In addition, while this rule only applies to a subset of active ingredients and products used outside of healthcare and food handling industries, there might be some confusion as to the regulation’s impact on the foodservice industry. 

The Important Role of Hand Hygiene Plays in Foodservice
Handwashing with soap and water is the first and most important step any restaurant worker can take to ensure the safety of food and reduce the risk of getting sick or making others sick. 

Whether it takes place on the farm where the food is being grown, or in the kitchen (at home or in a restaurant), hand hygiene is vital to preventing our food from becoming contaminated. Also, when people think about hand hygiene in the foodservice industry, they typically think about handwashing with soap and water. 

Antibacterial Soaps and the Foodservice Industry
While the FDA does not specify what type of soap – bland or antibacterial – for foodservice industry workers to use, antibacterial soaps are common.  

Antibacterial soaps are often used because they contain ingredients designed to kill germs on the skin, adding an extra level of protection from microbial contamination. In fact, a 2011 study, published in the Journal of Food Protection, compared bland and antibacterial soaps and found that antibacterial soaps did provide a statistically significant greater reduction in bacteria.

In addition, handwashing technique plays a critical role in reducing the transient, or illness-causing germs, on hands. Yet, oftentimes, handwashing technique is incorrect, and using an antibacterial soap helps kill germs missed by an ineffective washer. 

All in all, hand hygiene and using the right hand hygiene products play a critical role in food safety.