This joint report is co-authored by A.I.S.E., the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance products, and the IFH.
The report evaluates the ways in which household hygiene is changing to meet 21st century needs. Growing awareness of the need for effective hygiene offers significant opportunities to develop novel hygiene products which not only maximize protection against infection, but also ensure sustainable use of resources.
The report centres around the principles of Targeted Hygiene, an approach based on risk assessment and risk management which argues that, to be effective, hygiene practices need to be focussed at the times (moments) and in the places that matter to break the chain of infection and reduce the risk of exposure to harmful microbes. An equally important aspect of targeted hygiene is the need for effective hygiene procedures which can be used to break the chain of infection at key moments.
The report concludes that getting consumers to adopt this scientifically-proven targeted approach to hygiene in their home and everyday lives, could have a significant impact in reducing spread of infection and securing better health for EU citizens.
The report also contains the results of a pan-European poll carried out by A.I.S.E. in February 2020 to evaluate how consumer beliefs about hygiene risks affect their actions. The poll indicates that, although consumers’ actions are to some extent guided by their perception of risk, there was limited understanding of what are key risk situations, and when (and where) hygiene is needed. Similarly, consumers report using disinfectants in some situations where they are needed, whilst in other similarly risky situations, they are only rarely used. Similarly, there was usage in situations normally considered as low risk.
A further barrier to behaviour change highlighted by the poll is lack of clarity about what the term hygiene actually means. Whilst the majority of consumers agreed that hygiene is more than just cleanliness, a significant number thought that they were one and the same thing, whilst others thought that hygiene is specifically about using a disinfectant.
The findings suggest that, if hygiene promotion activities aimed at consumer behaviour change are to be successful, they must be accompanied by consumer education on the basic concepts of Targeted Hygiene.
In conclusion, the report sets out a number of actions that need to be taken, in order to maximise effectiveness of hygiene whilst at the same time addressing sustainability issues.