Following a Missouri court’s verdict directing healthcare products major Johnson & Johnson to pay damages to the family of a 62-year-old woman who died of ovarian cancer, the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has collected samples of 10 other talcum powder brands, including Johnson & Johnson baby powder, and sent them for testing to its laboratory to reaffirm if they meet the standards.
Speaking to The Hindu , FDA Joint Commissioner Omprakash Sadhnani said, “After the US incident, we have sent all talcum powder brands for lab tests. It is not just about Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder. We have collected samples of 10 talcum powder brands, including Johnson & Johnson, and sent it to the FDA laboratory to check for compliance with standards.”
Mr Sadhnani said the tests will not specifically determine carcinogens. FDA commissioner Harshadeep Kamble said the FDA action is a precautionary measure.
The move comes after a Missouri court last month ordered Johnson and Johnson to pay $72 million in damages to 62-year-old Jacqueline Fox, who was among the over 1,200 American women who had sued the multinational for failing to warn consumers of the dangers associated with the talc: the mineral used in baby powder. Claiming that their products are safe, Johnson and Johnson had expressed disappointment with the verdict and said that it would challenge it.
In the past, the Maharashtra FDA has taken action against Johnson & Johnson twice. In 2005, the FDA had sent a notice to the company accusing it of selling nine of its products as specially meant for babies without proper clearances and had asked the company to remove the word ‘baby’.
In April 2013, the FDA had suspended its licence to manufacture cosmetics at its Mulund plant after an investigation found that the company did not conduct a mandatory test to ensure absence of ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen used in sterilisation, in 15 batches of baby powder. The company had subsequently challenged the order with the appellate authority, and later in the Bombay High Court, which stayed the matter in April 2014. “The matter is subjudice,” Mr Sadhnani said.
An email to Johnson & Johnson’s corporate communication department seeking the company’s comments went unanswered.