What kind of hand soap do you buy?
My eyes combed the store shelves in pursuit of the next item on my shopping list. I noted blue, orange, gold, green and clear liquid in plastic containers. I was beckoned by appealing descriptions on the front of the packages, including apple, cranberry, citrus and cucumber.
I started picking up the bottles and reading more closely. I wasn’t comparing the nutritional value of foods or beverages. I was looking for liquid hand soap without an antibacterial additive.
One of my specialty areas is food safety, so you might think I would be pushing anything that says “antibacterial.” However, that is not the case.
Years ago, I read the preliminary hand-washing research, which showed that the type of soap used to wash our hands made little difference in removal of bacteria and other microorganisms. Instead, the effectiveness of soap on cleaning our hands depends on spending enough time scrubbing our hands and using water and “soap.”
Soap marketing campaigns have helped convince us that we need the extra antibacterial ingredients. Really, we don’t need the antibacterial agents at all. In fact, some manufacturers are beginning to remove the antibacterial agents.
Back in 2000, the American Medical Association stated: “Despite their recent proliferation in consumer products, the use of antimicrobial agents such as triclosan has not been studied extensively. No data exist to support their efficacy when used in such products or any need for them, but increased data now suggest growing acquired resistance to these commonly used antimicrobial agents.”
Triclosan, the common agent in many antibacterial products, is regulated as a pesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been collaborating on this issue in recent years. Triclosan has been used in soaps, body washes, socks, toys and a variety of consumer goods.
According to a September 2016 information release from the FDA, “Many liquid soaps labeled antibacterial contain triclosan, an ingredient of concern to many environmental, academic and regulatory groups. Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters the way some hormones work in the body and raises potential concerns for the effects of use in humans. We don’t yet know how triclosan affects humans and more research is needed.”
What about hand sanitizers? Hand sanitizers operate differently than antibacterial hand soaps. Sanitizers contain alcohol, and they are not linked to the same issues. Hand sanitizers should contain at least 60 percent alcohol.
Be cautious about having hand sanitizers around children because consuming more than a couple of mouthfuls may cause alcohol poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Washing our hands with soap and water when it is available is preferable to using hand sanitizers, especially in the kitchen when we are trying to remove greasy ingredients.
Proper hand washing can help prevent colds, flu and foodborne illnesses. Pay attention to how and when you wash your hands. The CDC provides five steps for washing our hands:
• Wet your hands with running water (warm or cool). Add soap.
• Lather your hands by rubbing them together. Don’t forget to wash between your fingers and around and under your nails.
• Scrub your hands at least 20 seconds. That’s the amount of time that singing the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself two times will take.
• Rinse your hands under running water.
• Dry with a clean towel or use an air dryer.
Remember to wash your hands before, during and after preparing food. Wash your hands before you eat in restaurants or at home. Wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, blowing your nose or taking out the trash. Wash your hands before and after taking care of someone who is sick.
The next time you are buying hand soap, body wash and other products that might state “antibacterial” on the label, you will want to reach for the “regular” products.
Besides washing your hands, be sure to enjoy a healthful diet with a variety of foods. A steaming bowl of soup is welcome as our weather cools in the autumn. This tasty soup was developed by high school students at Burke Middle and High School and community members who worked with a chef in Charleston, S.C.
1 3/4 tsp. canola oil
3/4 c. onions, peeled and diced
3/4 c. celery, diced
3/4 c. carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. whole fennel seed
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional but adds a “kick” to the recipe)
1 1/2 c. canned low-sodium black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
3 1/2 c. water
1 c. extra-lean turkey ham, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/3 c. kale, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Note: you can substitute another type of canned beans.
In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery. Cook for two to three minutes or until tender. Add carrots, salt, pepper, fennel seed and optional crushed red pepper. Cook for two to three more minutes. Add black-eyed peas and water. Cook uncovered for 24 minutes over medium heat. Add turkey ham and kale. Cook covered for an additional 10 minutes over medium heat until kale is tender. Add parsley right before serving.
Makes six (1-cup) servings. Each serving has 94 calories, 3 grams (g) fat, 8 g protein, 10 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber and 488 milligrams sodium.