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The FDA Should Provide Guidance Based on Sound Science


By George Landrith,  Frontiers of Freedom 

The winter holidays are full of many joyous things – family, delicious food, gift giving and reunions. However, with all of the merriment also comes another reality – the inevitable spread of germs. Not only do we have the fear of COVID-19 and its variants, but we must not forget about the common cold and flu viruses that spread every year. 

Our government tells us to use hand sanitizer and wash our hands to stop the spread of these germs, but what happens if the government is not fulfilling its responsibility of making sure the products we are using are safe? It’s time the Biden administration held up their end of the bargain and makes sure Americans are using only safe, effective products on their hands. 

Back at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an unprecedented demand for hand sanitizer, and it didn’t take long before there were shortages making it nearly impossible to find. To respond to these shortages, the Trump administration relaxed certain regulations to allow more producers to jump into producing the needed hand sanitizer to help meet the demand. At that time, it was a reasonable step given that so many stores had no hand sanitizer to sell. 

However, everything has its unintended consequences, and this case was no different. It turns out that some of the companies that jumped into the production of hand sanitizer mislabeled their products and some produced hand sanitizer that was ineffective at killing germs and viruses. In some cases, producers even included harmful ingredients and carcinogens in their hand sanitizers. 

While the FDA reinstated regulations on hand sanitizer, the problem has not gone away. In August 2021, Newsweek reported that the FDA list of recalled hand sanitizer was “longer than it has ever been during the pandemic,” with 255 different products on it. As recently as November 14, the FDA announced a recall of 10 lots of hand sanitizer made by ArtNaturals, after “cancer-causing impurities” were found in the product. What’s more concerning, many businesses, who believed they were doing the right thing, bought these products in bulk, and have been refilling their dispensers with unregulated products.

The businesses who made hand sanitizer part of their plan to help their customers stay safe, meant well. They were trying to meet a need and they too were victimized by those who cut corners and produced shoddy and mislabeled product. But regardless of their good intentions, public health was put at risk because some of the products obtained were ineffective, and in some cases placed people at risk for cancer. 

We all hope that sooner, rather than later, we can begin to get back to normal. Students are returning to school and hopefully the economy will begin to show strong signs of recovery. But students and consumers must be able to trust the hand sanitizer available to them. 

A study conducted by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology found that when students washed their hands with soap and water and used effective hand sanitizer, they had significantly lower rates of sick days and missed fewer classes. It would seem that mother was right to ask us to wash our hands before dinner. So, as we work to get back to normal, proper hand hygiene should be part of the strategy. 

The time has now come for the FDA to turn to science-based standards for hand sanitizer., especially when it comes to the dispensers that businesses rely on. The stores shelves may have empty spots for some products, but hand sanitizer is no longer in short supply. Nor do we appear to be unable to keep up with demand. The public has a right to be confident that the products they buy work as intended and won’t harm them with toxins. 

Even once this pandemic has past, safe, effective hand sanitizer is a worthwhile public health strategy. It can help combat the common cold and the flu as well as future communicable diseases. Every winter we enter cold and flu season, so this isn’t a concern going away any time soon.  

The truth is, we may not be able to completely eradicate COVID. It may be more like the flu, and require that we mitigate its impact and harm. Hand hygiene may be one of our best long-term strategies, and that would require that we have access to safe and effective hand sanitizer. The FDA should act without delay and provide businesses with the tools to operate safely and freely, knowing that they are doing everything they can to keep their employees and customers safe. 


George Landrith is the President of Frontiers of Freedom.