Confusion reigns as Qatar recalls two variants of a popular shampoo brand

July 19, 2010
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Qatar’s decision to recall two variants of a popular shampoo brand has confused retailers who say they had not been directly notified by the competent authorities.

Long-time users of the shampoo said they were worried about the damage the product might have inflicted and are reportedly upset that the authorities did not make the findings of the test public immediately after they were known on Thursday.

“They waited because it was the weekend and the findings about the danger of using the shampoo were revealed only on Saturday evening. They should have told the newspapers immediately,” a consumer who has been using the brand of shampoo for seven years said, quoted by Qatari daily The Peninsula.

Many shops continued to sell the product on Sunday as they were unaware of a recall order, the paper said. However, the major supermarkets had taken them off the shelves by afternoon as the news spread.

The environment and health authorities’ warning that excess presence of the hazardous 1,4 dioxane could cause cancer and skin diseases created considerable concern among long-time users of the shampoo brand.

Qatar’s expert panel which issued the recall order late on Saturday said the compound 1,4 dioxane was found above 10 parts per million (ppm) in two variants of the shampoo brand. The compound in excess could cause cancer and other skin diseases, it said.

The ban has kicked-off a serious online debate.

“I just took a shower using Head & Shoulders shampoo and came out of the bathroom to see the report that the shampoo was banned. I have been using it for many years”, said a posting on a popular social networking site.

When contacted by The Peninsula, the manufacturers in Saudi Arabia said they or their distributors were not contacted by the authorities to tell them of the recall decision. “They had contacted us about three weeks ago about their intention to put our products to test and we suggested our reputed third party laboratory for the purpose. We have not heard from them afterwards, a top official of Procter & Gamble told The Peninsula.

A high-level delegation of the cosmetic major is making a trip to Qatar to discuss the matter with Qatari authorities.

The company said their products are safe. “Let us make it very clear that our products are safe. The levels of 1,4 dioxane are below safe levels set out by regulatory bodies around the world … In fact, 1,4 dioxane is found at trace levels in common foods, drinking water and the air we breathe,” Yassin Alattas, Procter & Gamble External Relations Director of the Middle East & Pakistan region, said, according to the Qatari daily. “Procter & Gamble has been serving consumers in the Middle East since 1956 and we are continuously striving to provide consumers with products and services of superior quality and value that help improve the health/hygiene and environment of people all over the world.

“The company is prepared to test the samples at any internationally accredited labs to prove its quality standards. For us, it has always been about our consumers and maintaining their trust. There is a lot of misinformation and confusion around the 1,4 dioxane issue. Our goal is to do whatever we can to be sure our consumers understand the facts around 1,4 dioxane and know that they can trust our products,” Alattas said.

The team’s decision to recall two variants of popular Head & Shoulders shampoo comes a short time after it had ordered for the recall of four other shampoo brands early this month.

The team is made up of representatives from the Ministry of Environment (MoE), Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Urban Planning (MMAUP), Supreme Council of Health (SCH) and the Ministry of Business and Trade (MBT).

The retail outlets have not received any formal orders regarding the ban orders. “We came to know about the recall from newspapers today and we immediately withdrew both the variants from the shelves,” a management executive from a leading supermarket said. “We got in touch with the country dealer of the Head & Shoulder. They said the banned products are being currently distributed in all the GCC countries.”

Dr Hamad Saif Al Kuwari, head of the labs at the Ministry of Environment, said it is the responsibility of the outlets to make sure that the products they are selling meet the country’s set quality standards. “We have already informed the traders regarding this through huge media advertisements several months ago,” he told The Peninsula.

Dr Al Kuwari said the Qatari authorities are sending the samples to a competent lab outside the country. Qatar is following international quality standards.

Earlier, participating in a talk show Dr Al Kuwari said the expert panel had sent eight different variants of the shampoo and only the two variants tested positive.

He sought the cooperation of all the concerned agencies, including the Consumer Protection Department to ensure that the products sold in the local market are meeting the quality standards set by the country.

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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