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Antibacterial soap makers will have to prove that their products are more efficient in fighting germs than ordinary soap and water.

Prompted by a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, U.S. regulatory authority, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the new rule for the antibacterial soap makers to ensure safety for consumers. This proposed rule does not apply to hand sanitizers, wipes or antibacterial products used in health care settings. 

The rule also holds that if the products fail to prove their efficiency, the manufacturers will either have to reformulate per the product claims, or re-label them to keep them on store shelves.

The regulatory watchdog has given a one year grace period to the soap producers to submit data to support an antibacterial claim

The FDA is of the opinion that the effectiveness of the soaps with antibacterial ingredients, such as triclosan, has not been tested for the efficacy of their germ-fighting capacity. The authority also feels that prolonged exposure to such antibacterial ingredients may cause hormonal imbalance. Triclosan also makes bacteria resistant to antibiotics which in turn may lower the effectiveness of several medical treatments.

Triclosan has been used as an antimicrobial agent by surgeons since 1970s. They are essentially pesticides which were initially not intended for consumer use. There has been a widespread concern after consumer product manufacturers started using them profusely.

Pressured by growing consumer awareness of the toxicity in several everyday cleaning and beauty products, many manufacturers and retailers are taking steps to rid their products of these chemicals. In Sep 2013, The Procter & Gamble Company (PG - Analyst Report) announced that they will be removing triclosan and di-ethyl phthalate (DEP) from their products by 2014.

New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Analyst Report) has ensured none of its baby-care products contain triclosan. It also revealed plans to eliminate the ingredient from adult items by 2015.

Supermarket chains have also reacted to the new FDA standards. In Oct 2013, Target Corp. (TGT - Analyst Report) unveiled a new safety standard that will assess more household cleaners and beauty supplies and remove unnecessary and potentially harmful chemicals from their products.

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT - Analyst Report) formulated a new chemical policy, effective Jan 2014. It sent directives to manufacturers to reduce or eliminate about 10 chemicals commonly used in beauty products, household cleaners and cosmetics.

The proposed FDA rule is particularly significant as it would mean that several items, with which U.S. consumers are particularly familiar, may disappear from the shelves. Moreover, it will affect the huge antibacterial soap market, which forms almost half of $900 million liquid soap market.

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