Birko defends hand soap after link to impaired muscle function

By Joe Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Triclosan effective antimicrobial ingredient in Birko’s hand soap
Birko has defended an antibacterial ingredient it uses in hand soaps for the food processing industry after it was linked to impairing muscle function.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis and the University of Colorado​ found it hinders muscle contractions at a cellular level, slows swimming in fish and reduces muscular strength in mice.

They found triclosan impaired the ability of isolated heart muscle cells and skeletal muscle fibres to contract.

Gennady Cherednichenko et al. said anesthetized mice had up to a 25% reduction in heart function measures within 20 minutes of exposure to the chemical.

Birko said it uses triclosan only in hand soaps and not in other products as it is not suitable or approved for use as an antimicrobial on food processing equipment.

The vast majority of research indicates that triclosan, when used at levels presently employed in commercial products is safe, the firm said.

No safety concerns

Birko confirmed to that none of their customers have raised concerns about triclosan safety.

In an emailed statement, Victor Reusch, Ph.D, a research and development chemist at Birko and Elis Owens, Ph.D. a senior microbiologist and chemist for the same company said Birko are committed to enhancing the safety of the food chain.

“Birko will continue to offer triclosan in these hand soaps until the government or the suppliers judge that its use is no longer considered to be safe.

“According to reports available on the internet, the FDA and EPA (as well as Canada) all are re-evaluating use of triclosan and its impact on health and the environment. 

“We, too, await these results.” 

Birko offers four hand soaps containing triclosan, among a field of seven hand soaps.

The amount used in the hand soaps does not exceed industry recommended levels, they added.  

Previous ingredient usage

“In the past, Birko has stopped using ingredients that were shown to be potentially carcinogenic or harmful in other ways, even when government agencies actually did not ban their use. 

“We rely upon other organizations including private, academic and government laboratories for research leading to judgments about whether chemical products destined for direct human contact are safe for use.

“We await further research from other laboratories that would support and validate this study, and the judgments of regulatory agencies that inevitably will follow.

“At the present time, use of triclosan is considered safe for use by the EU, Canada and the United States.

“We believe it is an effective antimicrobial in helping curb the spread in the food industry of potentially pathogenic microorganisms such as E.coli and Salmonella.” 

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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