Bombay HC questions FDA’s delayed action against Johnson & Johnson

The advocate appearing for Maharashtra government said FDA’s functioning suffered because of the pandemic.

January 03, 2023 08:09 pm | Updated 08:09 pm IST - Mumbai

Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder. File

Bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby powder. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday came down heavily on the Maharashtra Food and Administration Department (FDA) and asked why they have not taken any action against Johnson and Johnson for allegedly using subpar baby powder for two years.

A Division Bench of Justices Patel and S.G. Dhige was hearing a petition filed by the company challenging the order of the State government cancelling the manufacturing license of its baby powder in Mumbai. The plea mentions, “On September 15, the Joint Commissioner and Licensing Authority, FDA, Maharashtra issued an order cancelling the company’s license, effective from December 15, 2022. In December 2018, the FDA during a random inspection took samples of the baby powder and found it to be “not of standard quality.” The State had then revoked the licence citing public interest and in September 2022, cancelled it and directed the company to recall the stock of the powder from the market.

“Your order is from September 15, what were you doing? If you are dealing with infant health care products, we expect a response within 48 hours, not two years…Using a defunct standard to test.. how do you justify this?” the court asked.

The advocate appearing for Maharashtra government said FDA’s functioning suffered because of the pandemic.

To which the Bench remarked, “You are supposedly the torch bearers and champions of public health… I will assume the reverse side. That a baby product is of third-rate quality and may cause fatalities…Is this your sense of urgency? Don’t argue COVID again. We will impose costs if you use Covid as an excuse.”

The court directed FDA time till January 13 to file an affidavit on whether it wants to continue to contest the petition or withdraw the orders against the company.

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