Sometimes you just have to wonder what companies are thinking–and what they can get away with. Apparently, if your targeted market is Latino, virtually anything.

Yesterday, I got tired of the completely crappy generic dish liquid, so went after the Real Stuff. Ajax was on sale at Walgreen’s, and of course I went for the antibacterial. Something was a little off, though: Their claim on the label was to be able to remove bacteria from your hands–or something to that effect–and the lack of the actual claim that this product was in fact antibacterial in and of itself made me look closer.

And it wasn’t. No triclosan, which is what other actual antibacterials use.  Instead, this product protects your health and keeps the world safe for democracy by (in an understated note on the back) drumroll, please!!!! By decreeing that to make this so, you should thoroughly wash your hands! (Golly gee, Colgate! Thanks for clearing that up!)

Annoying, yes. Well, OK, I’ve clicked up a notch or so from that by now–and the Walgreen’s district manager was also puzzled by this. However, he brought up what I suspect to be a salient point: One of the unusual things about that label is that it is half in Spanish. And you gotta wonder about that . . .

. . . particularly as there’s an Ajax that is antibacterial–it states it unambiguously on its label, and includes triclosan in its list of ingredients. But I had to get that list from their website.

Oh yeah. List of ingredients. The fake stuff dutifully lists them on the label–obviously to cover their butts–but none of the other bilingual scents on sale had a list at all.

I find this despicable. Yeah, everybody from Mr. Obama down to the postal dachshund knows that you’re supposed to wash your hands–but the aforementioned group also “knows” that orange liquid + the word antibacterial somewhere on the label = triclosan, or some other specifically biocidal agent.

But not them dummies here in the barrio!! They’ll fall for anything! Aqui estamos, lavandose nos manos!!

So much for the 21st century.

Here’s the full letter I sent Colgate-Palmolive, and copied to the Soap and Detergent Association, which seems to understand what “antibacterial” means.


I don’t have the barcode, because I didn’t buy this product.

At the Walgreen’s in my district, there’s an Ajax product that superficially looks like your antibacterial dish detergent. But . . . it’s not.

The front label is different from the one depicted on the product on your site and on Walgreen’s. The product on sale in the store doesn’t *quite* come out and say it’s antibacterial per se; instead it states that it’s capable of removing bacteria from your hands. There is an asterisk, and on the back it admits that in order to do this, you should wash your hands thoroughly for some minutes.

Well, yes. That’s how soap works; that’s the basic rule we learn in kindergarten. That’s what the APHA recommends–but (for good or ill) that’s not what the consumer expects in this product.

There isn’t any triclosan in this product, as there is in your other *actual* antibacterial product–which is, of course, clearly and unambiguously labeled as such.

There were several other scents of your dish detergent available–and none of the others had any ingredients labeled at all–but the clone of your antibacterial product DID have a list of ingredients. This seems to clearly be covering the possibility that you might legally be said to be  flat-out lying to the consumer: Hmm, we didn’t *say* it had an actual antibacterial agent–as does our similar product.

This liquid has the amber color consumers now automatically associate with products containing an antibacterial agent. It looks just like the “real” thing, and it bears the word “antibacterial” on the label. This is clearly an attempt to mislead the consumer into thinking she has bought a product with different properties.

This is particularly troubling given the concerns over the H1N1 virus, and the upsurge in hand sanitizing products–of course proper hand washing is vital for hygiene–but, again, that’s not what the consumer expects. She’s not getting an agent which kills microbes rapidly–in fact, the detergent industry standard is that an actual antibacterial should kill bacteria on contact–see the Soap and Detergent Association–she’s just getting good ol’ soap.

Incidentally, the Walgreen’s district manager and I both noticed that these labels–the amber product and the other scents in this sale, which, again, lack any ingredient list at all–are printed in both Spanish and English; I wonder if there’s a connection between this frank attempt at deception and that you are clearly trying to reach a market of people who lack fluency in English.

Shame on you. The manager is contacting their regional buyer; I’m sharing and posting my observations–and you’re not getting any more of my money.