China is hitting back against its critics over contaminated products. Now 80 families are to file a lawsuit against consumer products major Johnson & Johnson, claiming its products have harmed their children.
Their lawyers say they will submit cases to grass-root courts in Beijing at the beginning of April.
"We are considering class action lawsuits because of the huge number of victims involved," said Cui Baoyu, a member of the legal support group. The group said it plans to start proceedings in Beijing because most of its clients come from the city. The group will ask people to provide products, purchase receipts and children's medical records, Xinhua reported.
Cui said the group will also send lawyers to other cities, or ask local professionals to provide guidance. "We have more than 50 lawyers in the group," said Cui, "and the group continues expanding as more lawyers from all over the country ask to join every day."
US-based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a non-profit, had reported recently that traces of the chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane were present in dozens of top-selling children's bath products, including Johnson & Johnson's Baby Shampoo and Procter & Gamble's Kandoo hand wash.
The US Environment Protection Agency views both chemicals as probable carcinogens. The substances are byproducts of the manufacturing process and are not listed on the ingredients label.
J&J has asserted it is not considering any recall or refund as a result of the concerns raised, arguing that several government and industrial watchdogs including the US Food and Drug Administration have long been aware of the potential presence of the chemicals in personal care products and found them to be safe if kept at low levels.
J&J said the consumers organization was distorting the facts and that its "false suspicions" had triggered unnecessary concern among parents.
China's inspection departments released contradictory results following tests carried out on Johnson & Johnson products last week.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) said on March 20 that all 26 Johnson & Johnson baby bath products it tested met the country's regulations on cosmetic formaldehyde.
But one batch number (B081210A/20111209) was found to contain a small amount of 1,4-dioxane, an as yet unregulated substance used in cosmetics both in China and the United States, according to AQSIQ.
The following day, the State Food and Drug Administration said it had failed to find contamination by either formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane in checks it carried out on 14 Johnson & Johnson baby bath products sold under the company's Shanghai brand.
The Chinese parents' group plans to ask medical institutions to conduct allergy tests to try to find a correlation between their children's allergic symptoms and the products.