Updated at 8:40am on March 25 to include a statement from Johnson & Johnson.
With reporting from Riham Sheble and Shabina S. Khatri
A commonly used baby product has vanished from at least half a dozen pharmacies and supermarkets across Qatar this month, after its American manufacturer lost a lawsuit against the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer.
Johnson’s baby powder has been banned from Qatar store shelves temporarily, Muhammad Seif Al-Kuwari – the assistant deputy of the department of specifications affairs at the Ministry of Municipality and Environment – told Al Raya this week.
The announcement comes weeks after the newspaper reported that Qatar’s government was forming a committee to ensure the safety of the product.
While noting that the baby powder has been imported and used in Qatar for years without complaints, Al-Kuwari said further sales were now prohibited due to concerns about its possible link to cancer.
Other Johnson & Johnson products, such as lotions and body washes, remain on store shelves and the company told Doha News that all of its products sold in Qatar are safe for babies, infants, children and adults when used as directed.
Al-Kuwari could not be reached for comment this afternoon, and requests for information by Doha News to the Ministry of Municipality and Environment were referred to the Ministry of Public Health.
However, the government said it was continuing to study the issue:
— Baladiya (@Baladiya1) March 24, 2016
Similarly, Johnson & Johnson said its talcum powder was undergoing additional examination locally. In a statement to Doha News, the company said:
As aligned with the (Qatari) authorities, additional testing is being performed to provide full reassurance regarding the product’s safety. Consumers in Qatar can be confident that every Johnson’s baby product meets the highest standards for safety.
The company added that its products “meet or exceed government standards in every country where they are sold. This includes compliance with local Qatar legislation.”
In the US, manufacturer Johnson & Johnson was sued over allegations that it knew about the possible risks of using products containing talc, but failed to warn consumers about them, according to CNN.
Some $72 million in damages was awarded to the family of a woman who, according to her family, used Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder for nearly 50 years, the news network added. The woman, Jackie Fox, died of ovarian cancer last year at the age of 62.
In its statement to Doha News, Johnson & Johnson said it “strongly” disagrees with the jury outcome:
“It goes against decades of sound science proving the safety of talc as a cosmetic ingredient in multiple products. It is important to note that this US court case is not a determination by a regulatory body, governmental agency or other entity with oversight of cosmetic talc or other cosmetic products. It is also not a new scientific study or technical assessment.”
In Qatar, Al-Kuwari was quoted as saying that the product has been sent to labs in Europe to ensure that they do not contain any toxic materials.
Today, Johnson’s Baby Powder was found to be missing from store shelves in Carrefour at City Center mall, Monoprix in West Bay and three pharmacies around Doha, including in the Old Airport area and Najma.
However, a staffer at a pharmacy in Markhiya said they were still carrying the product.
In a statement, Kulud Pharmacy said it decided to voluntarily remove Johnson’s Baby Powder from its shelves pending further direction from the Ministry of Public Health. A spokesperson added that the product was collected by Johnson & Johnson.