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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Don’t let the wool be pulled over your eyes!

Since the first blog hit the air in May, Lee and I have strived to provide educational and entertaining ways to talk about chemical disinfectants. From what to consider when choosing a product to how you can ensure a successful cleaning and disinfection program regardless of your facility type. While certainly drawing on our experience, the content has always been factual and credible. Which leads me to this week’s topic – how to spot the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Helpful tips to use to identify if the information you’ve been given or read about in a magazine or journal is factual and credible.

We are inundated on a daily basis with emails, advertisements in journals and magazines, meetings with sales reps, vendor tables at education conferences, etc. it’s a wonder that anyone can make heads or tails out of the fodder. As Dr. Syed Sattar expressed in his blog “Stop the Smoke and Mirrors” (http://ow.ly/7lzcJ) there are a number of areas that need improvement not only from a product development and registration perspective, but also from a decision maker perspective to ensure as a chemical disinfectant consumer we are asking and looking for relevant criteria when making a product choice. Aside from the contact times, product claims, and educational support we should also refuse to receive or allow companies to pull the wool over our eyes when it comes to advertising or marketing claims.

Advertorials – advertisements that mimic or imitate editorial format is one of the newer methods that companies are using to provide more detailed information to the potential end user. While somewhere on the page you will generally find a blanket statement “This is a paid advertising supplement. The contents do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the publisher” the type may be small and the formatting laid out in such a way as to make it difficult for the reader to understand if this is editorial content or advertorial content. To the unsuspecting, advertorials in a scientific journal may be confused with peer reviewed content. Hence the need to remember; Do not always believe everything you read!

A recent advertorial in a well respected Infection Control Journal claims that cleaning beats disinfection and that the reliance on disinfecting to decontaminate the healthcare environment has lead to an increase in HAIs. As a chemical disinfectant educator, the importance of cleaning as part of the disinfection process is extremely important, however, regardless of the “science” behind such spurious claims, to ensure a successful infection control program we must utilize the currently accepted guidelines, governmental mandates and legislation and of course, common sense. To ensure you are looking at both sides of the story and have the pertinent information to make an educated decision I hope you’ll consider the following the next time you read an advertorial.

  1. Are the facts stated in the advertorial backed up by peer reviewed publications? It is important to realize that there are a number of independent labs available for hire to conduct testing, many of which are not accredited to provide data to regulatory agencies responsible for registering disinfectants. We need to consider the following: was the testing conducted in a manner that would withstand peer review? Will the data meet the scrutiny of a regulatory body for support on a Health Canada or EPA registered label?

  2. If the advertorial references a study, verify if the study has in fact been published and obtain a copy to review. Is the reference from a peer reviewed source or is the reference from a research project? If from a research project, will it be published in a peer reviewed publication? Has it been presented at a scientific conference? Does the study minimize biases?

  3. The guidelines we follow are based on scientific evidence and designed to provide best practices to ensure positive patient safety outcomes. Is there sufficient science to support following recommendations from an advertorial that do not adhere to the guidelines?

  4. Does the information described in the advertorial agree with current regulations? If an adverse event were to take place, would your facility be cited for not adhering to mandated regulations? For example, the Occupational Health and Safety Act specifies that an employer MUST take every precaution to protect workers from risk of infection. If current best practices recommend the use of disinfectants for decontamination of surfaces or devices that may pose a risk, what are the legal ramifications to your facility if you do not use a disinfectant?

  5. What does your gut tell you? Is the advertorial a wolf in sheep’s clothing or, after review of the data, is the advertorial a factual and credible piece of information that should be considered in more detail?

I firmly believe that members of the chemical disinfectant industry have a wealth of credible information that the infection control and public health communities can benefit from and in general, most companies strive to provide factual and credible product information. But like any industry there will always be some who try to pull the wool over our eyes. It’s up to everyone to call them on it. Next time you read an advertorial be sure you have both sides of the story and keep the following in mind - Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me!

Bugging Off!


  1. Nicole, I know that I have seen wolves in sheep's clothing as I have read advertorials, but I never knew they had a name until I read your blog.
    I loved it. Now, I have 5 steps to take to insure there is another side to the editorial--it may be an advertisement! An advertorial!
    Thanks for lifting up the sheep's clothing and allowing me to see the wolf underneath.
    By the way, I've seen wolves before and that cute little dog in your story is NO WOLF (although, if he's like my miniature dachshund, he thinks he is.
    regards, darrel

  2. You caught us Darrel! Tyson is in fact a Yorkie.....but that's the beauty of creative license!

  3. We would like to thank all of you who have posted comments to the Talk Clean To Me blog. While our intention is not to censor comments, the objective of the blog is to provide unbiased and product neutral discussion on the use of chemical disinfectants. We would kindly ask that any mention to specific product names or sales positioning be excluded.

    The Clean Freaks