Antibacterial claims misleading?

Many types of household products sporting "antibacterial" labels are being snapped up by germ-wary consumers, but there is growing concern among government regulators and health professionals that many labels are misleading.

Some labels' fine print often belies consumers' expectations. For example, a dishwashing liquid labeled "antibacterial" whose label also indicates it is a hand soap may provide antibacterial protection for the hands but not for dishes, as someconsumers might assume. Part of the problem is the regulatory conflict between FDA, which regulates personal hygiene products, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates claims for cleansers, detergents and other similar products. Neither agency has shown much inclination to tackle the consumer confusion issue unless it can be shown to be a threat to public health. FDA has been reviewing its regulation of antibacterial personal-hygiene products since 1994 but says it needs more data on their safety and effectiveness. EPA has been somewhat more aggressive in cases where products are promoted as fighting germs when, in fact, the antibacterial ingredient merely preserves the product itself from deterioration.

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