Does hand sanitizer really kill all germs?

“Kills 99.99% of germs,” boasts the label of Germ-X hand sanitizer. But are most of those germs harmless? The FDA has asked companies for more evidence.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers like Germ-X won’t kill bugs like the parasite Cryptosporidium, or the hard-to-treat bacteria Clostridium difficile, which can cause life-threatening diarrhea.

Nor will they kill norovirus, which is highly contagious and causes vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea.

Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year, 19 to 21 million Americans get sick from norovirus (though not all of them from eating contaminated food).

The bottom line

For bugs like norovirus, hand-washing is a safer bet than hand sanitizer. (Looking for info about the coronavirus, hand-washing, and sanitizer? Click here.)

Photo:Юрий Красильников.

The information in this post first appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.

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