Store chain recalls Johnson baby products
Will Clem and Lilian Zhang in Shanghai
A major supermarket chain in Shanghai pulled Johnson & Johnson baby bathing products from its shelves yesterday in response to a US report that they contained carcinogenic chemicals.
The move by Nong Gong Shang Supermarkets came despite a statement from the manufacturer ruling out a recall and the US Food and Drug Administration finding no fault in the products.
State media reported earlier that Shanghai's food and drug administration was considering testing Johnson & Johnson's products for two cancer-causing chemicals as a result of the US report, which was released by an activist group last week.
Nong Gong Shang includes a large chain of supermarkets plus Kedi and Alldays, two of the city's biggest convenience store franchises.
The report, 'No more toxic tub', was published on Thursday by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a US-based coalition of pressure groups.
It said it had found levels of formaldehyde and a chemical called 1,4-dioxane in a number of baby bathing products manufactured by Johnson & Johnson and several other manufacturers.
Only the Johnson & Johnson's products are known to be available on the mainland.
The highest levels found in Johnson & Johnson's products were 210 parts per million of formaldehyde and 4.6 parts per million of 1,4-dioxane. The European Union has set an upper limit of 2,000ppm on formaldehyde in cosmetics, and there is no limit on 1,4-dioxane in cosmetics.
However, the report has been ridiculed by a US trade association, the Personal Care Products Council, which said the amounts of the chemicals found were either a trace or very low, and 'well below established regulatory limits or safety thresholds, and are not a cause for health concern'.
It accused the pressure groups of making a 'shameful and cynical attempt' to 'incite and prey upon parental worries and concerns in order to push a political, legislative and legal agenda'.
A spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson in Shanghai said both the parent company in the US and its local subsidiary stood by the safety of their products, which met all relevant requirements.
The Asean Cosmetics Association also released a statement yesterday condemning the report.
'Allegations made by an activist group in the US that commonly used cosmetic products are dangerous and somehow contaminated with harmful levels of carcinogenic chemicals are false and based on no scientific evidence,' the association said.
Although 1,4-dioxane is known to be harmful in large doses, there is no firm, clinically proven link between long-term low exposure and cancer in humans.
However, the chemical is 'reasonably anticipated' to be a carcinogen on the basis of trials that exposed rats and mice to very high levels of the toxin over lengthy periods.
Formaldehyde is known to be harmful, but not in low doses.