Nithya Subramanian

New Delhi, April 19

THE Health Ministry is under pressure to pronounce its verdict on whether the baby products manufactured by companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Himalaya Drug Company and Emami are safe or not.

Top officials in the Ministry said that as the Government has not yet received any report from the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on this issue, it is unable to firm up its views on the issue.

"With Parliament in session, there are several questions related to the issue. Since this concerns the general public, we want to take a view on these products as soon as possible. But nothing can be done till the Maharashtra FDA submits its report."

The Health Ministry is also of the opinion that a complete study of the safety of products containing paraffin for children should have been conducted based on the complaints received.

"Instead of creating public panic, safety studies should have been conducted first," sources said.

The FDA's contention has been that baby oils contain liquid paraffin as base, which is not safe for baby use.

The sources also said that the report by the FDA is also important for the Government to formulate a policy on baby products.

Currently, there are no clear guidelines on composition or labelling of baby products.

"Generally, labelling norms depend on whether a product is registered as a drug or a cosmetic. Drugs have stringent labelling requirements, but the norms are lenient for cosmetic products. But there could be a separate set of rules for baby products," the sources said.

Last month the Maharashtra FDA had sent out show-cause notices to a handful of companies manufacturing baby products, unsettling the Rs 200-crore baby-care market.

This was based on complaints that baby oil caused allergy and companies should therefore carry warning labels on the pack.

The regulatory body had then said that any product that claims to have properties or ingredients targeting a specific group should have scientific or medical evidence backing it up.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 20, 2005)
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