HC reserves order on J&J plea to reopen talcum powder unit

PTI Mumbai | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on August 03, 2013

The Bombay High Court has reserved its order on a plea by Johnson & Johnson seeking reopening of its baby talcum powder plant in suburban Mulund after the company said that it was willing to test the product for ethylene oxide residue.

The order was reserved yesterday by justices S F Vajifdar and M S Sonak, who were hearing a petition filed by J&J challenging an order of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which directed closure of company’s plant from June 24.

As an interim relief, the company had sought permission to reopen its factory.

The judges observed that the offer of the company to test the product appeared to be “reasonable” and proved its bonafide intentions.

Reserving the order, the bench noted that FDA had not contended that the current stock of the baby powder was a problem or that prejudice would be caused to public interest.

In March, FDA cancelled the licence of the factory after it found that 15 batches of baby talcum powder manufactured there in 2007 were sterilised using ethylene oxide, a chemical that is widely believed to cause cancer, apart from symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and is considered ‘an irritant’.

FDA alleged that the company had not registered this process with it, and failed to conduct tests to check for traces of ethylene oxide in these batches of powder.

The company challenged the order before the appellate authority, but the order was upheld and so it moved the Court.

Senior counsel Rafiq Dada, appearing for J&J sought interim relief saying the company was not using ethylene oxide treatment process any more.

The FDA lawyer, Ashutosh Kumbhkoni, however, opposed the request. “Even today, the company is not admitting that treatment to check residue was not done. Absence of repentance and remorse is withholding the authorities,” Kumbakoni argued.

Justifying FDA’s order directing closure of the J&J’s Mulund facility for not checking some batches of talcum powder for ethylene oxide residue in 2007, he said, “Multinationals should stop treating Indians like guinea pigs. If the same incident had happened in the US, the company would have faced worse (consequences).”

Published on August 03, 2013
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