The American Cleaning Institute (ACI)

ACI Helps Fill Data Gaps for FDA Review of Food Handler Antiseptics

  • Agency Considers New Regulatory Category for Key Germ Killing Ingredients
  • ACI: FDA May Be Taking “Restrictive Approach” Towards Active Ingredients

The American Cleaning Institute (ACI) submitted in-depth data and information to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to update the agency’s review of germ-killing antiseptic hand cleaning products that are widely used in commercial food handling settings. 
In July 22 comments submitted to FDA, ACI recommended that the agency align the scope of its review with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). 

"FSMA regulations require food safety evaluation and intervention throughout the supply chain, including the growth, harvest, production, manufacturing, processing, packaging, transportation, storage, preparation, service, and consumption of food," wrote ACI in its comments. "Food safety interventions include proper employee health and hygiene, of which hand washing and sanitization is a critical component."

ACI expressed concern that "FDA may be taking an unduly restrictive approach to assessing the monograph eligibility of active ingredients intended for food handler antiseptic drug products."

While the agency had previously stated it expected that many antiseptic active ingredients used in these products may not have been on the market prior to 1972 – when the Over-the-Counter Drug Review was first established – ACI claims otherwise.

"In January 1972, before the inception of the OTC drug review, FDA announced that it was convening an advisory panel on 'all antibacterial ingredients used in OTC drugs for repeated daily consumer use as prophylaxis against minor skin infections or transmission of disease'.

"In this notice, FDA specifically identified ‘food handlers’ as among those who 'may benefit from the antibacterial action of these products.' This language is consistent with the recognition that antiseptics, with broad claims to prevent transmission of disease, were already in use and of benefit to food handlers. Therefore, the potential eligibility of antiseptics for food handler use has been clear from the beginning of the OTC drug review.

"Therefore, it would be unreasonable for FDA to require, as a condition of monograph eligibility, the submission of labeling specific to food handler use when it is well known that such products, with more general antiseptic claims, were historically used by food handlers. 

"It should be sufficient for determining monograph eligibility to show that the ingredients were intended for antiseptic use broad enough to cover food handling, rather than requiring food handler specific labeling."

The active ingredients currently used by ACI members in food handler antiseptics include benzalkonium chloride (BAC), benzethonium chloride (BZT), chloroxylenol (PCMX), ethanol (EtOH) and povidone-iodine (PVP-I). ACI stated that new data being generated to the support the safe use of these antiseptic ingredients – including those to address human exposure – "will be sufficient to meet the safety data needs of food handler products."

ACI added that research is underway to fill in data gaps on how frequently food handler antiseptics are used by employees in those settings.

ACI submitted a citizen petition in 2014 requesting that FDA create the food handler category as "a threshold step to address the safety and efficacy of active ingredients for use in this category of products." In December 2018, the agency announced that it was formally seeking to "obtain data, information, and comments that will assist the Agency in assessing the safety and effectiveness of food handler antiseptic drug products (i.e., antiseptic hand washes or rubs intended for use in food handling settings) for over-the-counter (OTC) human use."

The American Cleaning Institute® (ACI – is the Home of the U.S. Cleaning Products Industry® and represents the $60 billion U.S. cleaning product supply chain. ACI members include the manufacturers and formulators of soaps, detergents, and general cleaning products used in household, commercial, industrial and institutional settings; companies that supply ingredients and finished packaging for these products; and chemical distributors.  ACI serves the growth and innovation of the U.S. cleaning products industry by advancing the health and quality of life of people and protecting our planet. ACI achieves this through a continuous commitment to sound science and being a credible voice for the cleaning products industry.

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