Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today ordered the re-testing of samples of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and allowed the company to manufacture the product but not sell it, as per an order by the Maharashtra government.
The company had filed a petition challenging two orders of the state government — one dated September 15 canceling the license and the other dated September 20 ordering the immediate stoppage of production and sale of the company’s baby powder product.
The orders were approved by the Joint Commissioner and Licensing Office of the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The government based its order on a report by the Central Drug Laboratory in Kolkata, which found that the powder contained a higher pH value than prescribed.
A division bench of Justices SV Gangapurwala and SG Dige on Wednesday directed the FDA to collect fresh samples from the company’s factory in Mumbai’s Mulund area within three days.
The sample would then be sent to three laboratories – two government laboratories and one private – for testing.
“The samples will be sent to Central Drug Testing Laboratory, West Zone, FDA Laboratory, and Intertech Laboratory for testing,” the court said.
“The lab will submit a report within a week after that,” he added.
Senior lawyer Ravi Kadam, appearing for the company, demanded that the court should at least allow the company to start manufacturing the product by then.
“The government prohibits the petitioner from selling or distributing the baby powder product. The company must follow this order. If the company decides to manufacture the product, it would be at its own risk,” the bench said.
The HC sent the matter for further hearing on November 30.
The company said in its lawsuit that 14 random batches from February, March, and September 2022 were tested by an independent public testing laboratory and all were found to be within the prescribed pH range.
The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) major said it has been manufacturing baby powder at its Mulund plant for the past 57 years and its license was renewed in January 2020.
The company also said it incurred a daily loss of ₹2.5 million based on the market value of goods sold due to the license cancellation.