Antibacterial soaps and body washes in the household aren't any more effective in reducing illness than regular soap, and could potentially contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics, The independent panel, the Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee, advises the Food and Drug Administration.
Panelists were to vote later Thursday whether they believed such soaps provided any benefits above regular soap for people outside of health care.
The FDA is not bound by their decisions but often follows their advice. The agency has the authority to add warning labels to or restrict the availability of such soaps and related items, but it has given no indication any such ruling is imminent.
Representatives of the soap industry argue antibacterials are safe and more effective than regular soap.
In documents, FDA officials have raised concerns about whether the antibacterials contribute to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria, and said the agency has not found any medical studies that definitively linked specific anti-bacterial products to reduced infection rates.
The committee was told that "there's a lack of evidence that antiseptic soaps provide a benefit beyond plain soap," said Allison E. Aiello, an assistant professor at the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan, citing a series of studies in the United States and Pakistan.
The popularity of antibacterials has skyrocketed in the last decade as consumers decided killing bacteria in the home was better than just washing them off. A.M.