FTC cracks down on antibacterial claims

With an increasing number of products calling themselves "antibacterial" on labels and in advertising, the Federal Trade Commission has signaled its intention to crack down on germ-fighting claims that cannot be substantiated.

In September, the commission reached a settlement with Unilever Home & Personal Care USA in which the company agreed not to indicate that any of its antibacterial products are as effective in preventing germs as washing with soap and hot water. The settlement was over a complaint filed by FTC about claims made for Unilever's Vaseline Intensive Care antibacterial hand lotion. The commission said it is looking at other claims and that the Unilever settlement might be the first of several. FTC primarily concerns itself with protecting consumers from false and misleading claims in advertising. As a number of cases show, the commission considers a product label a form of advertising subject to its authority.

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