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Soap’s Opera: Conflict and Resolution on the World Stage

By: Karen A. Newman
Posted: October 10, 2008, from the January 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

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While generally favorable toward the REACH program, The European Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (Colipa) did express concern about its possible impact on innovation. “The REACH system has to be manageable, effectively protect the consumer and secure the competitiveness of the European Cosmetics Industry and its capacity to innovate. We will continue our constructive dialogue with all stakeholders in the next stages of the decision-making process in order to ensure that the new chemicals legislation can be implemented successfully,” said Bertil Heerink, director-general, Colipa, in a statement issued in November 2005.

Defending Antibacterials

Soap industry organizations have been promoting the importance of hand washing for many decades, but since the first liquid antibacterial hand soap was introduced in 1989, the advocacy has moved from consumer encouragement to the defense of antibacterial ingredients.

The Japan Soap Association (JSA) launched its first nationwide “Let’s Wash Hands” campaign in 1951. JSA merged with the Japan Household Synthetic Detergent Association in 1973 to become the Japan Soap and Detergent Association (JSDA). Today JSDA is the representative organization of manufacturers of soap, detergent, oleo chemicals and other chemical-related products in Japan, and is the official face of the industry vis-à-vis other national and international industrial organizations.

JSDA recorded a boost in sales of hand washing liquids in 1996 during a scare over pathogenic Escherichia coli O-157 infection. Results of JSDA’s 47th Clean Survey, conducted in 2004, concluded that awareness of hand washing practices grew after occurrences of O-157, SARS, bird flu and other infectious diseases. The survey also found a high rate of medicated hand soap use, especially among homemakers with children. “I think we take for granted the public health impact of these products,” said Sansoni. “Hand washing is the most important factor in reducing the spread of harmful germs.” The things most people take for granted are the very things that the SDA and similar associations never can.

The SDA works with the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA) on issues related to antibacterial products. Recently, the two groups told a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel that antibacterial hygiene products play an invaluable role in the lives of consumers. The SDA/CTFA industry coalition presented documented research demonstrating the effectiveness and safety of consumer antibacterial products, according to a press release from the SDA. In documents submitted to the FDA, the coalition also endorsed requiring consumer antibacterial products to meet the same standard of efficacy as professional products. A statement released by the coalition said in part: