India’s drugs regulator has ordered Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to halt production of baby powder using raw materials in two of its Indian factories until test results prove they are free of asbestos.
That’s according to an unnamed official at the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), cited by Reuters. The official told the media that a written order had been sent to the US firm telling it to stop using the “huge quantities” of raw materials stocked in its plants in northern and western India.
“We have told them until this investigation concludes; you should not use the raw material. Test results will take time,” the official said. “Testing for asbestos is not a routine procedure. It might be in traces. It will require us to develop a method and all those things.”
The American pharmaceutical company is facing thousands of lawsuits in the US alleging that the asbestos in its baby powder caused cancer. The drugs firm has always denied the allegations and insisted that the product is safe and asbestos-free.
The CDSCO also collected samples of the company’s baby shampoo and soap products as a matter of routine.
“Whenever inspectors feel there is contamination in one thing they also take samples of (other products) from the same company,” said the official.
READ MORE: India’s drug regulators to test J&J’s baby powder after claims it contains cancer-causing asbestos
J&J said on Wednesday that Indian drug authorities visited some of its facilities and took “tests and samples” of the talcum powder. The company claimed that the safety of its cosmetic talc was based on a long history of safe use and decades of research and clinical evidence by independent researchers and scientific review boards across the world.
Inspections at J&J Indian facilities followed Reuters’ report that the firm knew for decades that cancer-causing asbestos could be found in its product.
READ MORE: Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.7bn in talc cancer lawsuit
The report said that J&J failed to inform the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that at least three tests from three different labs, carried out between 1972 and 1975, found asbestos in the brand’s iconic baby powder product. In one case, the levels of asbestos were reported as “rather high.”
“All talc in India is sourced and exclusively sold in India and surrounding markets – including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives – and fully meets the regulatory standards of the Government of India,” the company said.
It added that the talc is routinely tested by both suppliers and independent labs to ensure that it is free of asbestos.
J&J has been selling its baby powder in India for already 70 years. It is one of the most recognized foreign brands in the country where presenting gift boxes containing the talc product for newborns is almost a family ritual.
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