India’s drug regulator has pulled up Johnson and Johnson (J&J) Pvt Ltd for their claims that their baby powder is “safe". The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has issued a show-cause notice to the multinational company for advertising that the baby powder is pure and gentle, based on a government test report.

Amid allegations that the iconic powder contains asbestos, the drug regulator had barred J&J’s powder production at its Baddi, Himachal Pradesh and Mulund, Mumbai plants. The samples were sent for examination to a Chandigarh-based government laboratory.

However, the company came out with advertisements claiming that its baby powder is pure, safe and gentle, following a report from the laboratory that affirmed that the talc is of “standard quality" on February 28.

The DCGI on 5 March issued a show-cause notice to the company for using government analysts report to support their product, in contravention to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. According to the Act, advertising such claims attract a penalty for use of government analysts report for advertising under Section-29 of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, which is punishable with fine which may extend to 5,000.

The company has been asked to respond within seven days, failing which the regulator will take action against the company.

The drug regulatory had on 28 February allowed the company to resume production of its iconic baby talc at its plants. It was earlier barred from using about 200 tonnes of raw material at the Mulund plant.

Ubiquitous in many Indian homes, Johnson’s baby powder has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. In July, India’s drug regulator asked J&J to reveal the composition of its talc following a report that the US parent was ordered to pay $4.7 billion to 22 women who claimed that asbestos in its talc had caused them ovarian cancer.

However, the favourable report by the government laboratory encouraged the company, which said that “This conclusion reinforces the findings of decades of independent tests by universities, research labs and government regulators around the world that have consistently found that our talc is safe."

J&J makes a range of toiletries for toddlers, including shampoo, lotion, talc and soap.

Market researcher Euromonitor International predicts baby and child toiletries in India to grow at an average annual rate of 16.5% till 2022. J&J continues to dominate this segment in India.