Sri Lanka halts imports of Johnson & Johnson baby powder over concerns about asbestos

Imports of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) talcum powder have been stopped in Sri Lanka until the company proves its product is free from asbestos that may cause cancer.

Talc is a popular healthcare product across Sri Lanka and much of Asia. Sri Lanka imports the product from J&J India.

The country’s National Medicine Regulatory Authority (NMRA), which is part of the Health Ministry, said it had informed the distributor, A.Baur & Co, that it would require further tests to continue importing the powder.

“We have held their re-registration and informed the distributor to submit quality reports from an accredited laboratory to ensure there is no asbestos in their products,” Chief Executive of NMRA Kamal Jayasinghe told Reuters.

According to an unnamed representative at the NMRA, the license for A.Baur & Co to import the product expired in December.

Head of consumer affairs for A.Baur, Shalutha Perera, told the media that the firm has informed J&J India of the suspension of the licensing process.

“J&J India directly handles all the regulatory matters,” he said, adding that NMRA contacted A.Baur in December regarding new asbestos testing.

A spokeswoman for J&J India said the company “is in full compliance with current Indian regulatory requirements for the manufacturing and testing of our talc.”

She added: “We are fully cooperating with the Indian government and are awaiting results from their testing.”

According to the spokeswoman, the product was routinely tested by both suppliers and independent labs to ensure that it is free of asbestos.