People use their cellphones everywhere—including bringing them into bathrooms—and one study revealed a cellphone carries 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Considering people are constantly touching their phones and checking on average 80 times a day, that makes for lots of germs being passed around.
With more and more people bringing their personal devices to work with them, it creates a greater risk for unwanted and harmful bacteria getting in places that they shouldn’t be. This is particularly worrisome for those in the food industry and healthcare fields.
CleanSlate UV, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based infection control company, offers an EPA-approved UV light sanitizer that the company says can kill 99.99 percent of harmful bacteria on mobile devices and tablets in under 30 seconds.
The company recently filed an FTC complaint against Utah-based PhoneSoap LLC, which claims its PhoneSoap Med+ Ultraviolet disinfection solution is ideal for hospital systems and other industries worried about the rising problem.
Taylor Mann, the CEO of CleanSlate UV, alleges PhoneSoap’s marketing assertions are unsubstantiated and that the positive performance of the Med+ Ultraviolet has been overstated.
“The reason for the complaint is that this is a quickly growing industry and a significant problem being faced by a lot of facilities, and they need answers and demand solutions that offer really good science that they’re going to be consistently effective,” he says. “Consider food processors. They need to rely on these claims from manufacturers that these phone and tablets and other portable devices being brought into the production facilities are properly sanitized so their products are not at risk.”
Based on what PhoneSoap was saying—and promising— CleanSlate UV felt the need to alert the FTC because its claims, they believe based on the data they saw, would put people at risk of having devices that were not properly sanitized inside these facilities, and had no other recourse.
The Root of The Claim
Last September, CleanSlate UV became privy to documentation that PhoneSoap was showing potential customers in the healthcare industry data that seemed questionable. Mann says the company immediately questioned PhoneSoap’s efficacy claims, testing methods, and its product’s marketed instructions for use.
One of the biggest issues was the testing didn’t include soiling, so it was assumed that a mobile device would be pre-cleaned before every use, but there were no parameters in place to ensure that.
Also, the data showed testing was done in 45-second cycles, though the marketing efforts mentioned it would be 30 seconds.
Additionally, the bacteria used in PhoneSoap’s testing did not align with the specific pathogens claimed in their marketing materials, furthering the red flags.
Though this complaint was targeted for those in the medical field, Mann worries that food processors could see the claims or be targeted as clients themselves.
Wiping it Down
Regardless of what industry someone works in, everyone should be cleaning their phones regularly and proper hand sanitation is important for everyone.
Mann says that’s a very complex challenge as a lot of people don’t want to or don’t take the time to disinfect their phones properly. That further plays into the complaint, as PhoneSoap’s solution did not take that into consideration, he alleges.
“Chemical wipes right now are the default in hospitals, but also in a lot of food facilities where you’ll have Ecolab or other typical multipurpose surface disinfection products, but the phone or other devices tend to stay in pockets,” he says. “People are constantly going in and out of these areas, going across red lines into production facilities, which are mandating pretty strict hand hygiene protocols with critical control points. But then the phones are touched as soon as they get over that red line.”
The big challenge that many food facilities and biotech facilities are facing right now is the difficulty in ensuring those devices are wiped down every time, in part because a lot of people don’t want to put corrosive chemicals on their phones.
Mann says that simply because the new solution is being used, it’s not going to solve the problem that already exists, which is getting employees to use it in the first place. “Compliance is ultimately the main goal,” he stresses.