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Kanebo must address adverse effects complaints
Publication Date : 27-07-2013
A series of cases have been reported in which users of skin whitening products manufactured and sold by Japanese cosmetics giant Kanebo Cosmetics Inc. suffered white blotches and uneven skin tones.
Such complaints have been filed by more than 6,800 people. Of these, 2,250 users have reportedly experienced relatively serious side effects as they developed white spots in more than three areas.
Kanebo must accept a heavy responsibility for having worsened the scale of harm done. The firm must determine the cause of the problems promptly and take all possible measures to compensate for damage.
The case was brought to light after a dermatologist reported to Kanebo in May that “three patients who used (Kanebo’s) whitening products have developed white blotches on their skin.”
Kanebo embarked on a fact-finding survey but it took nearly two months for the firm to start recalling its whitening products on a voluntary basis. In the meantime, the company did not provide any warnings to consumers.
It is natural that Hisa Anan, director general of Japan's Consumer Affairs Agency, criticised the firm, saying it “should have made the issue public much sooner.”
The firm’s past response to consumers’ requests for consultations was also inadequate. After reviewing prior consultation cases, the firm found that 39 complaints similar to the recent ones had been made since 2011.
The employees who received such inquiries did not properly log the information as damage caused by products because the staff "attributed (the problems) to the users’ particular physiological characteristics."
This allegedly occurred because there were no previous incidences of white blotches caused by cosmetics.
Erroneous assessment of initial complaints, it can be said, led to the current extent users are affected.
No system was in place to promptly detect and analyze consumer inquiries and work out counter-measures accordingly.
Reexamine safety measures
The skin whitening products in question contained ingredients developed by Kanebo that it claims are effective in preventing dark spots and freckles.
No instances of white blotches were reported in tests conducted when Kanebo filed for approval of the ingredients with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry as effective quasi-drug substances.
Nevertheless, there is always the possibility that an unforeseen problem could emerge once a product is put on the market and used by many people. We cannot help but judge that Kanebo was naive about safety precautions as a cosmetics maker.
Many consumers use two or more beauty products, including lotions, that contain the same ingredients more than once a day. Unlike medication, appropriate usage amounts are not clearly mentioned on cosmetic labels.
This could be partly to blame for the escalated number of recent cases.
Amid the rise in the skin whitening trends, sales of whitening products accounted for about 200 billion yen (US$2 billion) out of total cosmetics sales of slightly more than 2 trillion yen ($20.4 billion).
Makers have been engaged in fierce competition to develop more effective products to meet consumers’ needs.
All cosmetics manufacturers should learn a lesson from the Kanebo incident and reexamine their safety measures and contingency plans.